Walking Sharks

(Vice) ‘Walking Sharks’ Are the Newest Branch of the Shark Family Tree

By Becky Ferreira Jan 21 2020, 2:00am

“They’re incredibly cute little animals and are really more like a gecko walking around than a shark.”

There is an entire cinematic subculture devoted to sharks that find ingenious ways to travel on land, be it via sharknado, genetic hybridization, or occult forces. Meanwhile, in the real world, there actually is a family of sharks that have evolved to “walk” on land, though they are much smaller, cuter, and less ravenous for human flesh than their counterparts on film. These walking sharks belong to the Hemiscyllium family, which is the newest lineage of sharks on Earth, according to a study published on Monday in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. Using specially adapted fins, the sharks are able to pull themselves across reefs in their tropical Indo-Australian habitat, even when they are not submerged by water.

“They’re incredibly cute little animals and are really more like a gecko walking around than a shark,” said co-author Mark Erdmann, a coral reef ecologist at the California Academy of Sciences, in a call.

“They are not big swimmers,” added Erdmann, who also serves as vice president of the Asia-Pacific Field Division of Conservation International, an American nonprofit environmental organization. “They stay on the same reef where they are born. They are very much homebodies.”

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