There is a New Shark in Town: Long-snouted African Spurdog (Squalus bassi)

This week in the Journal of Fish Biology, a new species of shark was described for science. I love seeing new species described for the first time! Over 70% of our planet is oceans, and yet we have only explored 5% of them (US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2009)! It’s no surprise that new species are being discovered every year. –But don’t be holding your breath for any megalodons! They are well and truly extinct, sorry!

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Copley, J. (Author). (2014 October). It’s easy to ignore what we cannot see [Digital Image]. Retrieved from http://moocs.southampton.ac.uk/

This week, science introduced us to the Long-snouted African spurdog (Squalus bassi). This shark is a member of the family Squalidae which includes the spiny dogfishes. The long-snouted African spurdog is found in waters in the south-eastern Atlantic and the western Indian Oceans, around South Africa. They are found in waters around the Western Cape in South Africa extending around the coast to Mozambique.

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Fig 7. Map of Southern Africa, showing the geographic distribution of Squalus bassi sp. nov. in the south-eastern Atlantic and western Indian Oceans. Black star, holotype; white triangle, paratypes; black dots, non-type material. (Viana, de Carvalho, & Ebert, 2017).

 

Like other dogfishes, the long-snouted African spurdog is a relatively small shark species. Females are larger than the males, reaching a maximum size of 3.6 feet (1.1 m) and males reaching 3.1 feet (0.1 m).

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Fig. 1. Squalus bassi sp. nov. in (a) (b) lateral and (c), (d) ventral views. (a) (c) Holotype, SAM 33476, adult male, 683 mm total length (Lt). (b), (d) Paratype, SAIAB 26419, juvenile female 450 mm Lt. Scale bars: 50 mm. (Viana, de Carvalho, & Ebert, 2017).

 

My personal favorite trait of this species is their teeth. (I mean who doesn’t love shark teeth?!) Their teeth have similar morphology in the upper and lower jaws. The upper jaw has 13 rows of teeth, while the lower jaw has 10 to 12 rows. The teeth themselves are unicuspid (having a single point) with a cutting straight edge that is directed in (or mesial). Picture having both a knife and fork inside your mouth. That’s effectively what these little sharks have! They have a sharp, single piercing point (the fork), and a sharp cutting edge (the knife). These little sharks have it all!

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Fig. 2. Upper (a) and lower (b) teeth of paratype of Squalus bassi sp. nov. [SAM 34004, adult female, 740 mm total length (Lt)] in labial view. Scale bars: 2 mm. (Viana, de Carvalho, & Ebert, 2017).

To read more about the long-snouted African spurdog, check out the article in the Journal of Fish Biology published this week:

Viana, S. T. de. F. L., de Carvalho, M. R., & Ebert, D. A. (2017). Squalus bassi sp. nov., a new long-snouted spurdog (Chondrichthyes: Squaliformes: Squalidae) from the Agulhas Bank. Journal of Fish Biology, 1–30. http://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.13448

The new Ocean For Sharks Shop is open! There’s handmade ocean inspired plush animals, canvas paintings, and of course my children’s book, Winifred the Wondrous Whale Shark, available in print and PDF. Be sure to stop by. Remember proceeds benefit shark research and conservation with a donation to Project AWARE!

Remember you can make a difference for marine ecosystems by calling your Congress man or woman and tell them that you care about the quality of our waters! Sharks, rays, and other marine organisms cannot speak or be represented in Congress. They need your voice. Get involved and stand up for sharks. Until next time finatics.

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Featured Image Source

Ebert, D. (Photographer). (2017). Squalus bassi [Digital Image]. Retrieved from http://shark-references.com/

Literature Cited

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2009, January 01). How much of the ocean have we explored? Retrieved September 17, 2017, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html

Viana, S. T. de. F. L., de Carvalho, M. R., & Ebert, D. A. (2017). Squalus bassi sp. nov., a new long-snouted spurdog (Chondrichthyes: Squaliformes: Squalidae) from the Agulhas Bank. Journal of Fish Biology, 1–30. http://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.13448

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