Florida scientists have just discovered an adorable, big-eyed species of dogfish shark, and the little creature looks like a mash-up of an alien and an anime character.
The newly identified species, Squalus clarkae, or Genie's dogfish, is named after the marine biology pioneer Eugenie Clark. It slinks around in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean. The sharks' monster peepers may look alarming, but these animals are relatively small, typically spanning no more than about an arm's length, from 20 to 28 inches long (50 to 70 centimeters).
The new species was previously categorized as Squalus mitsukurii, a dogfish species native to Japan. However, genetic tests and detailed analysis of the creature's physical features revealed that S. clarkae is distinct from its Japanese relative. [Images: Weird Deep-Sea Sharks]
Clark passed away in 2015 at age 92. Popularly known as "the Shark Lady," Clark began her career in the late 1940s and was one of the first female marine biologists. She was also one of the first people to study sharks. In 1955, Clark started the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, a one-room lab that became the internationally recognized Mote Marine Laboratory in 1967.
The life history of the more than 20 species in the Squalus group is still a mystery to scientists, but researchers fear the shark population is threatened by deep-sea commercial fisheries that capture the sharks incidentally as bycatch.
"This type of research is essential to the conservation and management of sharks," Mariah Pfleger, lead author and marine scientist at Oceana, an ocean-conservation nonprofit and advocacy organization, said in a statement. "The first step to successfully conserving these species that live in deeper waters, like Genie's dogfish, is finding out what is down there in the first place."
The researchers published their description of the new species today (July 17) in the journal Zootaxa.
Original article on Live Science.
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Kimberly has a bachelor's degree in marine biology from Texas A&M University, a master's degree in biology from Southeastern Louisiana University and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a former reference editor for Live Science and Space.com. Her work has appeared in Inside Science, News from Science, the San Jose Mercury and others. Her favorite stories include those about animals and obscurities. A Texas native, Kim now lives in a California redwood forest.