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New species of shark identified in Indian Ocean

The new species was found off the southwestern coast of India and north of Sri Lanka.

mumbai Updated: Nov 23, 2018 23:58 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
MUMBAI,shark,catshark
The Pygmy false catshark is currently known only from deep waters (200-1000m depth) and has a length of about 65cm.(K V Akhilesh/CMFRI)

A new species of a deep sea shark has been found in the northern Indian Ocean, the first such discovery in India since 2011 when the Mangalore houndshark was identified.

The Pygmy false catshark is currently known only from deep waters (200-1000m depth) and has a length of about 65cm. It is dark brown without any prominent patterns.

“It is a new addition to deep-water marine fauna of India, which is yet to be explored completely in its diversity,” said Mumbai-based K V Akhilesh of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). Akhilesh is part of the team that discovered the species.

The new species was found off the southwestern coast of India and north of Sri Lanka. Its scientific name is Planonasus indicus – from ‘planus’ meaning flat and ‘nasus’ meaning nose.

The discovery was made by a three-member international team of scientists, including Akhilesh and scientists from the United States and Germany. Their findings have been published in a peer-reviewed research journal on marine biodiversity from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany.

Akhilesh told Hindustan Times there is only one other species from this genus – the Dwarf false catshark (planonasus parini).

“There is currently a dearth of information and research related to marine biology across the Indian coastline. Currently, one section of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and research wings of certain universities have dedicated programs on marine biodiversity and taxonomy, which identify new species from time to time.”

The new species was first observed was on April 26, 2008, when it was caught in fishing nets in Kochi, Kerala.

“As a part of CMFRI surveys, we spotted the species but could not identify it. We began spreading the word about this species and even conducted discussions with experts,” said Akhilesh.

On March 15, 2018, a second specimen was caught off the coast of Trincomalee, in Sri Lanka. “Scientists from Sri Lanka shared the information with the American scientist and David A Ebert, research associate, department of ichthyology, California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and lead author of this study,” said Akhilesh.

“Since Simon Weigmann had discovered the Dwarf false catshark, we needed his expertise to find differences with this species. It was reviewed by international experts and finally published as an international documentation.”

The CMFRI scientist pointed out that several shark species were missing from regular monitoring programmes such as the river shark, sawfish and many others, which were once very common along India’s coastal waters.

“We are going through a phase of marine extinction. Even without knowing their right names or characteristics, species are getting extinct,” said Akhilesh.

“The reasons for this extinction are over-exploitation, overfishing, rise in shipping activities, and overall climate change impacts being witnessed steadily. ”

The CMFRI has come up with a National Plan of Action (NPOA) in 2015 that includes extensive monitoring, increasing species identification capacity and species wise fishery catch recording.

First Published: Nov 23, 2018 23:54 IST