Grad student discovers several new species of deep-sea shark

Daily Brew

When Paul Clerkin, a graduate student at California's Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, signed on with a deep-sea fishing expedition in the Indian Ocean, I doubt he expected that he would be discovering eight new species of shark.

He joined the commercial fishing crew in the hopes that, in addition to their normal catch, the ship's trawling nets would also pull up some interesting specimens for him to study. Over a two-month period, they pulled up 350 sharks, up to eight of which may be species that have never been seen before.

These sharks were caught from depth of around two kilometres below the ocean's surface.

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The sharks vary in size from about 40 cm up to a nearly three-metre-long 'false catshark'. Most show little resemblance to the sharks we're used to seeing, which just emphasizes the very alien environment that they live in. With the depths that they live at, these species are likely blind and rely on their acute senses of hearing and smell to survive.

In June, Nature reported that 79 potentially new species of shark had been discovered by Gavin Naylor and his colleagues at the Hollings Marine Laboratory, in Charleston, South Carolina. This added to the nearly 1,200 species already known.

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"We're pretty sure there are a lot more (species) out there. We're just a bunch of nerdy scientists doing the best we can. I'm pretty sure we've barely scratched the surface," Naylor said, according to Charleston's The Post and Courier.

Most newly discovered species are found in the deep ocean, since that remains the most unexplored part of our world. From the previous discoveries reported by the Hollings Marine Laboratory, and with Clerkin finding eight new species in one fishing excursion, Naylor's statement about barely scratching the surface might even be a bit of an understatement.