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‘A Bit Spooky’: The New Shark Species With Bright, White Eyes

A newly discovered species of demon catshark is found in the deep waters off Australia.

What has long, bright white eyes, swims along the deep waters off Australia and attaches its eggs to coral?

A new species of shark, called Apristurus ovicorrugatus.

The discovery process began several years ago, when researchers were going through uncataloged materials in the Australian National Fish Collection, housed in Hobart, where they found a mysterious egg that they were unable to assign.

That led to a fact-finding mission that eventually revealed a new species of demon catshark.

But something makes the newly discovered species even spookier. These catsharks have bright white irises, an unusual feature for deepwater creatures. Ms. O’Neill said she could only theorize as to why a shark would have such white eyes. They might help them see better in the dark, she said.

The egg cases helped researchers learn that the new species lays its eggs by attaching them to coral, which stops them from being dragged away by currents.

Using egg case morphology and other methods, like studying teeth, scales, genetics and livers, the scientists were able to write and submit a first draft of the study — but it wasn’t accepted because it lacked genetic material, Ms. O’Neill said.

She feared that process could take 20 years. “I could be dead before that happens,” she said.

The researchers needed more evidence, but hadn’t been able to get genetic material from the original egg case specimen because it had already been preserved and the egg cases themselves also have too much collagen to be properly tested.

And one of those egg cases researchers found had an embryo, which was able to provide the necessary genetic material.

“This is the final piece of the puzzle,” Ms. O’Neill thought, “in proving this is a new species.”

Category: Science

Source: NYTimes Science

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