Deep-sea dives around the Galapagos Islands have uncovered a new species of catshark, about 1.3 feet (40 centimeters) long. Bythaelurus giddingsi was discovered by scientists and specimens were taken back to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco for comparison purposes.
Seven catsharks were found, and the comparison showed that the chocolate-brown skinned, with leopard-like spots randomly distributed on their bodies, sharks were a new type of species of catsharks. Their most common relatives possess a dusky complexion with a straight line of spots.
Catsharks, also known as dogfishes, are one of the largest families of sharks. The arrangement of the spots appears to be unique for the Galapagos Catshark, with most of them having an identifying spot on one side that is smaller, larger, or differently shaped than the opposite-side spot.
The study was published in the journal Zootaxa. Researchers estimate that 100 million sharks are killed worldwide each year. As a top-level predator, sharks are necessary to balance ecosystems. Since the B. giddingsi is only found in the Galapagos, it may be more susceptible to extinction pressures.
Johm McCosker of the California Academy of Sciences collected the first specimens of catsharks while diving into the depths of 1,400 to 1,900 feet (430 to 580 meters) aboard the Johnson Sea-Link submersible.