HOME

NEWS

CHARITIES

VOLUNTEER

ACTION CENTER

ADD CHARITY

CONTACT

SUPPORT

World Environment Community Health Animals Celebrity Submit A Site Find A Charity
'Walking sharks' at greater risk of extinction than previously thought

By Michael Slezak, theguardian.com

77 days ago   Article ID# 3970123
Original URL

 

Conservation International

LONDON, U K (theguardian.com) - Bizarre “walking sharks” are at a greater risk of extinction than previously thought, with new information about their distribution leading researchers to expect greater efforts to protect them from human threats such as fishing and climate change.

Bamboo sharks include nine species of sharks that swim and “walk” in shallow waters around northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia. In 2013 a new species of the genus was found in Indonesia.

They are harmless to humans and are only active at night, when they start to “walk” around shallow reefs, feeding on crustaceans – even sometimes walking out of the water.

Now a review of the nine species of bamboo sharks has shown their habitats are much more restricted than previously thought. The researchers expect the findings will trigger an increase in the conservation status of at least some of the unusual creatures.

“Each of the nine species are small – less than one metre – charismatic sharks with unique and quite beautiful colour patterns,” says Mark Erdmann from Conservation International and the California Academy of Sciences. “Their walking behaviour makes them a favourite with divers, who will frequently request night dives with the explicit goal of finding a walking shark.”

Until now, it was thought that the various species had large overlapping distributions stretching all the way from northern Australia and Papua New Guinea to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and the Solomon Islands in the Pacific.

Erdmann says the new analysis shows conclusively the sharks have a smaller overall range and that the ranges of the nine species don’t overlap. “This obviously has huge conservation implications for the walking sharks,” Erdmann says.

“Anytime that a marine species is only found in a relatively tiny area, it means it is significantly more vulnerable to extinction than wide-ranging species. Any local threat – whether from fishing, from an oil spill, from rising temperatures, or even from physical destruction from a cyclone or tsunami – has the potential to wipe out the entire population.”

Gerald Allen from the Western Australian Museum says the sharks have an unusual breeding strategy that further limits their range, at least for a while after they hatch. “The female lays a few eggs amongst marine vegetation and these hatch into miniature adults that must forage for themselves and because of their limited swimming ability they are ‘tied’ to the immediate area in which they are born without the dispersal capability of most sharks.”

Erdmann says the new information is likely to prompt a reassessment of the sharks’ conservation status.

He says the International Union for the Conservation of Nature could reassess their status in its Red List, with some of the species likely to gain a more threatened status.

The Red List status doesn’t confer any direct protection to animals listed as threatened, but countries and international conventions use it in considering whether to implement greater protections.

Erdmann says the researchers are planning on communicating their findings to the Indonesian government and urging it to list the species found there as protected.

Allen says the team will be working with communities that depend on the sharks to encourage greater protection too. “Increased dive tourism is one avenue for their protection and we are personally trying to spread the word about these sharks and their need for protection in the dive industry. Successful dive tourism depends on healthy reefs and if there is economic benefit to local communities via dive tourism, there is often increased awareness and measures put in place to sustain healthy reefs.”

He says the fish evolved their ability to walk because of their feeding habits. “Their mode of locomotion is intimately tied to the exploitation of their food resources and has led to the evolution of walking rather than swimming,” he says.

“They feed mainly on small, cryptic invertebrates that hide in the reef. Walking enables them to methodically search for food in a slow and purposeful manner.”

Copyright 2017 theguardian.com   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 77 days ago   Article ID# 3970123

Conservation International    Visit Website

View All Actions >>

Climate
Oceans
Deforestation
Pollution
Wildlife
<< Return To Animal News

Action Center

Antarctic sea ice shrinks to smallest ever extent

Action: Climate Change

Sea ice around Antarctica has shrunk to the smallest annual extent on record after years of resisting a trend of manmade glob ...

UNEP calls for robust interventions to end illicit trade in pangolins

Action: Wildlife Conservation

Global campaigns aimed at eradicating illegal trade in pangolins deserve fresh impetus in order to save this unique but rare ...

Deforestation in Brazil increased 30% in 12 months, agency says

Action: Stop Deforestation

In the 12-month period that ended last August, deforestation in Brazil increased in almost 30 percent.

It is a ...

Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide

Action: Stop Pollution

A new report shows that air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death in the world – and the number five cause of ...

Protect coral reefs at Port Everglades

Action: Save Our Oceans

Just a few miles off the Florida coast lies the third-largest coral barrier reef system in the world. These corals, which ran ...

View All Actions >>

 

 

Charities

News

Follow Us

Support

Find A Charity

Action Center

World

Community

Facebook

Twitter Support

Contact

Volunteer

Add A Site

Environment

Animals

Google+

Privacy Policy

Copyright

 

 

Health

Celebrity

Terms of Service

Copyright © The Charity Vault All rights reserved.