New Species of Deep-sea Catshark Discovered in Galapagos

Posted on March 8, 2012

Galapagos Deep-sea Catshark

Scientists conducting deep-sea research in the Galapagos have discovered a new species of catshark. The new shark, Bythaelurus giddingsi, is approximately a foot long and has a chocolate-brown coloration with pale, irregularly distributed spots on its body. The researchers say the spotted patterns appear to be unique to each individual catshark. The species is described in the March 5 issue of the journal Zootaxa.

John McCosker, chair of Aquatic Biology at the California Academy of Sciences and lead author on the paper, collected the first specimens of this new catshark while diving to depths of 1,400 to 1,900 feet aboard the Johnson Sea-Link submersible.

McCosker says, "The discovery of a new shark species is always interesting, particularly at this time when sharks are facing such incredible human pressure. Many species have become locally rare and others verge on extinction due to their capture for shark-fin soup. The damage to food webs is dramatic, since sharks provide valuable ecological services as top-level predators—when they disappear, their niche is often filled by other species that further imbalance ecosystems. Most deepwater shark species are not very susceptible to overfishing; however, since this catshark's range is restricted to the Galapagos, its population is likely limited in size, making it more susceptible than more widely distributed species."

Photo: California Academy of Sciences

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