Nearly 9,000 species live in, on, and around the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador famous for its unique wildlife. This week the islands welcome one more critter to the Galapagos club. Say hello to Bythaelurus giddingsi, the world’s newest known species of shark.
The foot-long shark prefers deep depths and sports a chocolate-colored skin with a scattering of light spots. The discovering scientists believe the spot distribution and pattern are unique to each individual, and have also kindly suggested “Galapagos Catshark” as the species common name.
Catsharks are the most common type of shark swimming in tropical waters. They rarely exceed two feet in length and are named after their slanted cat-like eyes. The Galapagos Catshark grows to be about 1.3 feet long and joins a lengthy list of endemic Galapagos species.
"The discovery of a new shark species is always interesting, particularly at this time when sharks are facing such incredible human pressure," said John McCosker, Chair of Aquatic Biology at the California Academy of Sciences and lead author of the recent paper published on the species.
“Most deepwater shark species are not very susceptible to overfishing; however, since this catshark's range is restricted to the Galapagos, its population is likely limited in size, making it more susceptible than more widely distributed species."
Though the typical tourist is unlikely to see the new shark species themselves, anyone visiting the Galapagos should keep an eye open for the Islands’ other unique creatures.
Galapagos Sea Lion. Cute, cuddly, and happy to pose for the camera, the Galapagos sea lion is probably the islands’ most welcoming inhabitant. Galapagos Land Iguana. One of 3 iguanas unique to the islands, the Galapagos land iguana is a brilliant yellow-orange and can live up to a year without fresh water. One person unimpressed with the creature was Darwin, who called them “ugly animals” with a “singularly stupid appearance.” Giant Tortoise. Perhaps the most famous Galapagos resident, these massive tortoises are known to live over 100 years.