Featured Image Credit: Paul Nicklen, National Geographic
Florida Tech biology professor Toby Daly-Engel discovered the new species of sixgill sharks, located in deep water. She made this discovery after analyzing DNA samples from tagging bluntnose sixgill sharks at the University of Hawaii. Daly-Engel found that her samples weren’t matching up to any of the species she already had.
“This is a very cryptic population,” says Blake Chapman, a marine biologist and shark expert at Australia’s University of Queensland, “We just kind of stumbled on this alien DNA sequence that looked so different from anything we had seen.”
After this discovery, Daly-Engel partnered up with many colleagues across the world to continue his investigations on shark DNA. 1,310 base pairs of new mitochondrial genes were analyzed by MarAlliance in Belize, the National Marine Fisheries Services, and organizations around Florida to see if there were enough molecular differences from the big-eyed sixgill (Hexanchus nakamurai) species. Based on their findings, they were able to rename the Atlantic variety of this species to Hexanchus vitulus.
Previously, there were only two species of sixgill sharks: bluntnose and big-eyed.
“We’re finding that they are a look-alike species,” says George Burgess, director emeritus at the Florida Program for Shark Research. “Upon close examination using DNA, we find that they are [new] species.”
The discovery of this new species of sixgill sharks will not only help with understanding sharks more but help conservation efforts.
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