Mysterious Sharks Seen For First Time in Australia

Shark biologists have announced the discovery of two sharks never seen before in Australian waters.

Mandarin dogfish, Cirrhigaleus barbifer (OpenCage.info / CC BY-SA 2.5)

Mandarin dogfish, Cirrhigaleus barbifer (OpenCage.info / CC BY-SA 2.5)

“The rare sharks were caught off Rottnest Island two years ago at a depth of 1410 feet (430 m) by local recreational fisherman Steve Downs,” explained Dr Ryan Kempster, biologist with the University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute.

Mr Downs gave the sharks to a group of researchers at the Oceans the University of Western Australia. The specimens were a male just under 3.3 feet (1 m) long and a pregnant female about 4 feet (1.2 m) long.

“After two years of thorough investigation which included DNA sequencing, the sharks were identified as mandarin dogfish (Cirrhigaleus barbifer), a species never before seen in Australia,” Dr Kempster said.

“This species was known previously to be found only between Indonesia and Japan, and also New Zealand.”

It’s not known why the sharks were found so far from their normal habitat. But the find already has scientists re-evaluating their understanding of the species.

“The female shark found off Rottnest had 22 unborn pups and is only the second ever-recorded specimen of a pregnant female of this species,” said Dr Kempster, who is the lead author of a paper reporting the discovery in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records.

“Previously, it was thought that the maximum number of pups for this species was 10,” he said.

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Bibliographic information: Ryan M. Kempster et al. 2013. First record of the mandarin dogfish Cirrhigaleus barbifer (Chondrichthyes: Squalidae) from Western Australia. Marine Biodiversity Records, vol. 6, e25; doi: 10.1017/S175526721300002X