In a discovery that shows how much we still have to learn about the ocean, researchers have just discovered a new species of shark in the Atlantic Ocean. The new species comes from the same family as one of the most elusive and mysterious sharks in the world, the sixgill shark.
Sixgill sharks are unique among sharks as they are the only species to have an extra pair of gill slits. Before the recent discovery, sixgills have been split up into two species, the bluntnose sixgill and the bigeye sixgill. The bluntnose is the larger of the species that can live 2,500 meters beneath the surface while the bigeye sixgill is found closer to the surface.
The bigeye sixgill has been found in most major oceans, and until now, it was considered a single species until the recent discovery. A new paper published in Marine Biodiversity has revealed that the sharks that live in the Atlantic Ocean are actually a separate species than those found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Atlantic sixgill has been given the scientific name Hexanchus vitulus.
To determine whether the species was actually different from previous, scientists had to use genetics. By analyzing 1,310 base pairs of two mitochondrial genes, it was determined that the Atlantic population is different than the Indian and Pacific Ocean sixgills.
“We showed that the sixgills in the Atlantic are actually very different from the ones in the Indian and Pacific Oceans on a molecular level, to the point where it is obvious that they’re a different species even though they look very similar to the naked eye,” explains Toby Daly-Engel, who co-authored the paper describing the new species, in a statement.
The discovery shows just how little we actually know about the ocean, particularly the deep. With technology slowly allowing us to explore the deep more efficiently, we will be excitingly waiting for the future discoveries.