Sharks! The mere thought of them puts fear in the heart. It was bad enough that they were spreading havoc while swimming. Now it seems that these creatures have evolved to pick up walking as well.
Four new species
Researchers have now found four new species of walking sharks. The discovery was made by scientists who were sampling the DNA of the only known walking shark species to try and uncover when and how they evolved.
Much to their surprise, they discovered four other walking shark species. And the researchers report that they have been walking for at least 9 million years.
Also called "epaulette" sharks due to their spots that mimic military attire, these animals use their muscular fins to walk while seeking small fish to eat.
"The discovery proves that modern sharks have remarkable evolutionary staying power and the ability to adapt to environmental changes," told CNN Mark Erdmann, the new paper's co-author and Conservation International Vice President of Asia-Pacific marine programs.
Slow to evolve?
Before this event, it was believed that sharks were slow to evolve. However, the researchers found that the youngest species may have evolved less than 2 million years ago.
Now the scientists are hoping to help preserve this unique species. They are seeking to include the original sharks to the IUCN Red List, a list of threatened species.
"A global recognition of the need to protect walking sharks will help ensure they thrive providing benefits for marine ecosystems and to local communities through the sharks' value as tourism assets," Erdman told CNN.
"It's essential that local communities, governments, and the international public continue working to establish marine protected areas to help ensure our ocean's biodiversity continues to flourish."
What do you think of these walking sharks? Are they an endangered species that needs protection or the creepy cousins of scary sharks?