Scientists are excited over the discovery of the newest species of ‘walking shark’ to be known to man. Hemiscyllium halmahera, named after the Indonesian island from which it was discovered, is the ninth shark species known to man which ‘walks’ along the ocean floor. If we’re honest though, this is a pretty generous description of its movement. The rather pretty little sea-creature (growing up to 30 inches long) propels itself along the ocean floor with its fins and its narrow tail, giving it the appearance of a quick but clumsy puff adder.
The description of ‘walking’ shark is about as accurate as that of ‘teddy-bear-like’ Olinguito (the most recently discovered carnivorous mammal in the world) which sports claws seemingly menacing enough to disembowel any chump silly enough to call it a ‘teddy-bear’ to its face. Or even the ‘panda bat’ (a third recent discovery) which has black and white markings which, in my opinion, are as reminiscent of a badger or Friesland cow as they are of a panda. I will acknowledge, however, that the movement of Hemiscyllium halmahera definitely warrants some description in particular, and ‘walking’ is as close as we might get to describing it.
Video: Conservation International
The discovery has been particularly warmly received due to the positive impact scientists hope it might have on the battle to protect sharks in Indonesia. According to Dr. Mark Erdmann, who was involved in the discovery, Indonesia has been the world leader in the export of dried shark fins in the last three decades (read Dr. Erdmann’s article here). The recent increase in Indonesians taking up scuba diving, and the potential for revenue generated through marine tourism (combined with a number of other factors) have, however, resulted in positive steps being taken by the Indonesian government to protect sharks and curb the exploitation of shark and ray populations (have a look at these beautiful pictures of diving in Indonesia).
The Hemiscyllium halmahera – about as menacing as a sedated Baby Soft puppy – might prove the perfect example of the fact that the majority of sharks and rays in Indo are harmless to humans, and act as a mascot for the variety of interesting sea-life to be explored in the warm waters surrounding the archipelago.
Has this whetted your appetite for getting underwater? Check out these great diving holiday packages.