‘A Bit Spooky’: The New Shark Species With Bright, White Eyes

What has lengthy, shiny white eyes, swims alongside the deep waters off Australia and attaches its eggs to coral?

A brand new species of shark, known as Apristurus ovicorrugatus.

The discovery course of started a number of years in the past, when researchers had been going via uncatalogued supplies within the Australian National Fish Collection, housed in Hobart, the place they discovered a mysterious egg that they had been unable to assign.

That led to a fact-finding mission that finally revealed a brand new species of demon catshark.

The researchers introduced their discovery in a paper printed within the Journal of Fish Biology and titled “What got here first, the shark or the egg?”

The Apristurus genus, the second-most numerous group of sharks that counts about 40 species, is usually referred to as the ghost or demon catshark. The identify relies “on the truth that they’re deep dwelling and form of a bit spooky,” stated Helen O’Neill, a analysis technician and one of many paper’s authors. The sharks are backside feeders and have elongated catlike eyes.

But one thing makes the newly found species even spookier. These catsharks have shiny white irises, an uncommon function for deep-water creatures. Ms. O’Neill stated she might solely theorize as to why a shark would have such white eyes. They would possibly assist them see higher at nighttime, she stated.

Only one different Apristurus catshark has white eyes, however researchers had been in a position to decide a distinction between the 2 related species due to their egg casings.

The Apristurus ovicorrugatus’ egg circumstances have sturdy T-shaped ridges, the authors stated; the identify ovicorrugatus refers to those corrugated egg circumstances. The distinctive markings had been first described by scientists in a 2011 paper, which can also be the primary recording of the egg circumstances, however they lacked sufficient proof to find out it a brand new species.

The egg circumstances helped researchers study that the brand new species lays its eggs by attaching them to coral, which stops them from being dragged away by currents.

Using egg case morphology and different strategies, like learning tooth, scales, genetics and livers, the scientists had been in a position to write and submit a primary draft of the examine — however it wasn’t accepted as a result of it lacked genetic materials, Ms. O’Neill stated.

She feared that the method might take 20 years. “I may very well be lifeless earlier than that occurs,” she stated.

The researchers wanted extra proof, however hadn’t been in a position to get genetic materials from the unique egg case specimen as a result of it had already been preserved and the egg circumstances themselves even have an excessive amount of collagen to be correctly examined.

Then late final 12 months, a analysis voyage off Western Australia was profitable to find Apristurus ovicorrugatus egg circumstances. “That was so fortunate,” stated Ms. O’Neill.

Reproduction in sharks differs significantly: some lay eggs whereas others hatch them internally, and nonetheless others give beginning to reside younger. But the Apristurus genus show a mode of egg-laying in pairs, one for every ovary, of which, these sharks have two. That results in two egg circumstances.

And a type of egg circumstances researchers discovered had an embryo, which was in a position to present the required genetic materials.

“This is the ultimate piece of the puzzle,” Ms. O’Neill thought, “in proving it is a new species.”

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