A group of scientists from Australia have identified a new species of shark. Instead of the usual flowing through the water movements sharks typically display, this type of shark appears to touch the ground with its fins, giving it a unique type of gait. Found in eastern Indonesian waters, the shark's activity was captured on video.
The team that discovered the remarkable new shark are from the group Conservation International.
The species of a walking shark had been previously unknown. It was given the name Hemiscyllium halmahera, or epaulette shark. Its appearance is primarily brown with bunches of dark and white spots covering its body. It is a smaller species of shark, growing to be about 28 inches (70 cm) long.
Experts believed this type of shark is native to this region in Indonesia, which is located in the waters off the Maluku Islands. The shark's newly dubbed name comes from its origin, the island Halmahera.
This newly found shark is one of nine types of walking sharks found all over the globe. Dr. Mark Erdmann, who was involved with the find and co-authored the study, said this kind of shark is harmless to humans.
Erdmann shares more information in an Aug. 29, 2013 blog post. He describes the previously dismal future of sharks located in Indonesia, but said within the last year, significant progress has been made in efforts to preserve the sharks' presence. In preceding years the sharks had been exploited by fisheries for their fins and other related products that can be derived from their bodies.
"I have seen Indonesia take incredible steps to protect these fascinating species that help keep our oceans healthy — even if we don’t yet know of their existence. This week’s announcement of the new species of “walking” shark can truly be said to herald a promising future for Indonesia’s sharks and rays,"wrote Erdmann, who said he has been working in Indonesia for the past 21 years.
Erdmann goes on to describe how things have changed in Indonesia, which will in the long run benefit the local economy. People are flocking to see the incredible diversity of sea life that can be found in the nation's waters. The discovery of the "walking shark" is bound to attract attention and further grow the diver segment of tourism.
Out of the nine species of walking sharks, six hail from Indonesia. According to Red Orbit, a shark expert from Indonesia also agrees this new species find will help shift the focus from killing the sharks for profit to promoting their presence in the tourism industry.
“We now know that six of the nine known walking shark species occur in Indonesian waters, and these animals are divers’ favorites with excellent potential to help grow our marine tourism industry," said shark expert Fahmi (no second name), of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, during an interview with The Guardian.
The full study was published in the International Journal of Icthyology in the July 2013 issue.