2018 An Elasmo Year of Discovery

As 2018 comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to look back at all the amazing elasmo species that have been discovered this year!

The Atlantic Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus vitulus)

We kicked off 2018 in January with the announcement that there was a new shark in town! It was discovered that bigeye sixgill sharks in the Atlantic had genetically diverged from the populations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The research team leading the project use 1,310 base pairs of two mitochondrial genes to confirm that the sharks found in Belize, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Bahamas were in fact their own separate species: the Atlantic Sixgill Shark (Daly-Engel, et al., 2018).

Nicklen, P. (Photographer). (2018). Scientists have split a previously identified species of sixgill shark into two different species [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/

Genie’s Dogfish (Squalus clarkae)

July brought another exciting month in elasmobranch discovery. A paper published in Zootaxa  revealed that after DNA testing and morphological comparisons the Genie’s Dogfish was a unique species, and not a Shortspine spurdog (Squalus mitsukurii), as previously thought (Pfleger, Grubbs, Cotton, Daly-Engel, 2018). The new discovery was named after the Shark Lady herself, Dr. Eugenie Clark.

Pfleger, Grubbs, Cotton, & Daly-Engel (Authors). (2018, July 9). Figure 4A. Adult female Squalus clarkae sp. nov. holotype (catalog #UF239318) from the Gulf of Mexico (lateral view photo).


Indian Ocean blue-spotted maskray (Neotrygon indica)

July also brought us the discovery of the beautiful Indian Ocean Blue Spotted Maskray! This species was previously described as Neotrygon kuhlii, and was known to have a very wide distribution throughout the Indo-West Pacific. However DNA testing has revealed several deeply divergent mitochondrial lineages, leading to the description of eleven parapatrically-distributed lineages representing separate species, including the Indian Ocean blue spotted maskray (Pavan-Kumar et al., 2018).

Nindica Fig. 2_paratype
Pavan-Kumar et al. (Authors). (2018). Fig. 2. Paratype of Neotrygon indica sp. nov.: female specimen No. CIFEFGB/NKGM1, 182 mm disc length from the Gulf of Mannar, Tamil Nadu, India (9.12°N 79.46°E)


Marsha’s lanternshark (Etmopterus marshae)

The mysterious world of the deep sea revealed a new species of lanternshark this year. In November Marsha’s Lanternshark (Etmopterus marshae) was described from the Philippines (Ebert, & Van, 2018).  It has brilliant green eyes and an inky black body that helps it disappear in its deep sea environment, but it also has a light blue/purple pattern along its fins that makes it rather beautiful and reminiscent of the stars.

Cataina, D. (Photographer). (2018). Marsha’s Lanternshark, Etmopterus marshae, from the Philippines [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/

The Hawaiian Spurdog (Squalus hawaiiensis)

Late November revealed another new species that was once thought to be a Shortspine spurdog (Squalus mitsukurii). The Hawaiian Spurdog (Squalus hawaiiensis) is a deep sea species that shares many characteristics with Genie’s Dogfish and the Shortspine Spurdog, however geographic variation in morphology and genetic diversity varying significantly between them, indicating they are in fact separate species (Daly-Engel, Koch, Anderson, & Cotton, 2018).

Daly-Engel, Koch, Anderson, & Cotton. (Authors). (2018). Figure 3. Holotype. Lateral view of Squalus hawaiiensis sp. n. holotype (UF241161, female 750.5 mm TL).


Bythaelurus stewarti

December didn’t disappoint! We learned of another beautiful deep sea catshark, Bythaelurus stewarti, from specimens found in the Indian Ocean (Weigmann, Kaschner, Thiel, 2018). The scientific team who unveiled this species named the shark after fallen shark champion, Rob Stewart.


Weigmann, Kaschner, Thiel. (Authors). (2018). Fig 1. Bythaelurus stewarti n. sp., holotype, ZMH 26251, adult male, 425 mm TL, in lateral view [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207887

2018 brought us exciting new elasmobranch discoveries! I cannot wait to see what 2019 holds in store! Have a happy and safe New Year! See you on the other side!

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! And of course, I will always be here! So connect with me on Instagram and Facebook for even more sharky fun!

Conservation legislation needs public support in order to become law and help protect the environment and wildlife. Tell your representatives that you care about environmental and wildlife conservation.  It only takes a moment to make a change that will last a lifetime. Until next time finactics!


Featured Image Source

MarAlliance (Photographer). (2018). Genie’s Dogfish [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/63086-new-genies-dogfish-shark.html

Literature Cited

Daly-Engel, T. S., Baremore, I. E., Grubbs, R. D., Gulak, S. J., Graham, R. T., & Enzenauer, M. P. (2018). Resurrection of the sixgill shark Hexanchus vitulus Springer & Waller, 1969 (Hexanchiformes, Hexanchidae), with comments on its distribution in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Marine Biodiversity, 1-10.

Daly-Engel, T. S., Koch, A., Anderson, J. M., & Cotton, C. F. (2018). Description of a new deep-water dogfish shark from Hawaii, with comments on the Squalusmitsukurii species complex in the West Pacific. ZooKeys, (798), 135.

Ebert, D. A., & Van, K. H. (2018). Etmopterus marshae sp. nov, a new lanternshark (Squaliformes: Etmopteridae) from the Philippine Islands, with a revised key to the Etmopterus lucifer clade. Zootaxa4508(2), 197-210.

Pavan-Kumar, A., Kumar, R., Pitale, P., Shen, K. N., & Borsa, P. (2018). Neotrygon indica sp. nov., the Indian Ocean blue-spotted maskray (Myliobatoidei, Dasyatidae). Comptes rendus biologies341(2), 120-130.

Pfleger, M. O., Grubbs, R. D., Cotton, C. F., & Daly-Engel, T. S. (2018, July 9). Squalus clarkae sp. nov., a new dogfish shark from the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, with comments on the Squalus mitsukurii species complex. Zootaxa.

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