Australian researchers have recently identified a new species of bizarre white-eyed demon shark that is rare among deep-sea species.
The new species, named Apristurus ovicorrugatus, is a kind of catshark. They are commonly referred to as ghost or demon sharks. It is one of the most diverse shark genera in the world, with around 40 known species.
Apristurus belongs to a group of sharks known to lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. Her brilliant white irises are very unusual among deep sea fishWell, normally deep sea sharks have very dark eyes, either dark green eyes or just black eyes, which makes them very intriguing.
This feature in their eyes is shared by only one other species, Apristurus nakayai from New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea.
The discovery came after more than a decade of research into possible new species, following the discovery of one of its unique egg sacs off the west coast of Australia.
It could be identified decades after a dead pregnant female of the species was first captured off the coast of Western Australia. Initially misidentified, he was only assigned a new species after scientists took a second look at his strange eggs, which had sat in a museum storage room for years.
In 2011, researchers came across an extremely rare egg case containing a shark embryo. It was clear that the shark belonged to the genus Apristurus, but the egg carton did not match any known species.
Close up of Apristurus ovicorrugatus shark egg. Credit: White et al / Journal of Fish Biology.
For more than a decade, the case of the eggs remained a mystery, until scientists discovered two more in Australia’s National Fish Collection, which is managed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. (CSIRO).
“Egg cups had very characteristic longitudinal ridges on their surface, T-shaped in cross-section. There has been only one other species in the world that had egg cups with this ridge shape, and that is a completely different kind,” said Will White, CSIRO ichthyologist and lead author of the study.
The unique markings resembled many other species, but none of the features completely matched existing shark egg cases.
The distinctive T-shaped ridges on the egg are unique to this species of devil shark. Courtesy: Will White.
Initially, the research team faced hurdles in obtaining genetic material for analysis. But the recent discovery of egg cases with embryos produced the precious genetic material needed to solidify the case for a new species.
Armed with genetic evidence and through careful examination of egg morphology, in addition to studying teeth, scales, liver and other characteristics, they created a comprehensive profile of this new species.
An embryo found inside one of the examined egg cases allowed the identification of the new species. Credit: White et al/Journal of Fish Biology.
Researchers they named Apristurus ovicorrugatus for the corrugated eggs which led to their discovery, derived from the Latin for egg, “ovi” and “corrugatus”, meaning corrugated.
A species like no other
Apristurus ovicorrugatus, with its bright white eyes, captivates the imagination. It belongs to a diverse group of sharks called ghosts or ghouls due to their appearance.
Lateral view of Apristurus ovicorrugatus. Credit: Journal of Fish Biology.
Their elongated feline eyes give them an otherworldly appearance, lending an eerie air to their presence. However, it is the brilliant white irises of Apristurus ovicorrugatus what really sets it apart from its counterparts.
Some scientists believe that its unique eyes could help the shark navigate the darkness of the deep sea. In a world where light is scarce, having bulging eyes like beacons could be a significant advantage, allowing the shark to spot potential prey or threats lurking in the shadows.
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The researchers believe that the discovery of this new species could help to better understand the diversity of marine life in the deep ocean.
Along with adding a new devil shark to the list of deep-sea rarities, the discovery of A. ovicorrugatus is a reminder that there are all kinds of places to discover new species.
The discovery was recorded in an article in the Fish Biology Journal.
References: Live Science.
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