Ocean News

New Species of Deep-Sea Catshark Discovered

12th March 2012

Scientists conducting deep-sea research around the Galapagos have discovered a previously unknown species of catshark, which has been named Bythaelurus giddingsi. It’s roughly the size of a house cat and sports chocolate-brown coloration with pale, irregularly distributed spots on its body that appear to be unique to each individual.

John McCosker of the California Academy of Sciences collected the first specimens of this new catshark while diving to depths of 1,400 – 1,900 feet aboard the Johnson Sea-Link submersible.

“The discovery of a new shark species is always interesting, particularly at this time when sharks are facing such incredible human pressure,” said McCosker, Chair of Aquatic Biology at the Academy and lead author on the paper. “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."

McCosker goes on to note that while deepwater sharks such as this one are generally not as susceptible to overfishing as other species, this species may be particularly at risk

"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.”

These findings were published in McCosker JE, Long DJ, Baldwin CC. 2012. Description of a new species of deepwater catshark, Bythaelurus giddingsi sp. nov., from the Galapagos Islands (Chondrichthyes: Carcharhiniformes: Scyliorhinidae). Zootaxa 3221: 48-59. http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2012/f/zt03221p059.pdf