Will the oceans’ secrets ever be fully revealed? New species continue to surface, including two wobbegong sharks found off the south west coast of Western Australia.
The two newly discovered species of wobbegong sharks have made their public debut in the scientific journal, Zootaxa.
The wobbegongs, collected by WA Department of Fisheries scientists during a catch monitoring exercise off the south west coast, are known as the floral banded (Orectolobus floridus) and the dwarf spotted (Orectolobus parvimaculatus).
Shark researcher Justin Chidlow sent the specimens to Hobart for examination by Dr Peter Last, curator of CSIRO’s National Fish Collection for examination. Both sharks were found to be species not previously identified by taxonomists.
At first the floral banded wobbegong appeared similar to the well-known cobbler wobbegong (Sutorectus tentaculatus) but after a closer look the scientists found some obvious differences that indicated it was a separate species.
The dwarf spotted wobbegong proved trickier to assess. It looked similar to the known species spotted wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus) – only much smaller.
“The 70 cm long specimen was initially thought to be a juvenile spotted wobbegong, but on further examination it proved to be a mature male,” said Dr Last.
“To put things into perspective, in order to reproduce it would have needed to mate with a female spotted wobbegong two metres long – and would probably have been devoured in the process.”
Concluding that the small specimen was a previously unknown dwarf form of the spotted wobbegong, the scientists were able to identify it as a new species in its own right.
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