'Walking shark' discovered in Indonesia

Previously unknown fish, Hemiscyllium halmahera, uses its fins to move along the sea bed in search of crustaceans

A species of shark that uses its fins to "walk" along the bottom of the ocean floor has been discovered off the coast of Indonesia. The shark, Hemiscyllium halmahera, uses its fins to wiggle along the seabed and forage for small fish and crustaceans, scientists from Conservation International said on Friday.

The shark, which has wide horizontal stripes, grows to a maximum length of just 30in and is harmless to humans.

It was found off the remote eastern island of Halmahera, one of the Maluku islands.

The conservation group said it hoped the discovery would once again demonstrate that most sharks pose no threat to humans.

The find also highlights the extraordinary marine diversity in Indonesia whose chain of islands is home to at least 218 species of sharks and rays, and the country's recent efforts to protect species under threat of extinction, Conservation International said.

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Once a leading source of dried shark fin and other shark products, Indonesia over the last six months had dedicated new marine preserves to sharks and rays, CI said.

Indonesian scientists working with the conservation group said they hoped the new shark find would help that effort, by deepening interest in marine tourism.

"This is the third walking shark species to be described from eastern Indonesia in the past six years, which highlights our tremendous shark and ray biodiversity," said Fahmi, a shark expert at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

"We now know that six of the nine known walking shark species occur in Indonesian waters, and these animals are divers' favourites, with excellent potential to help grow our marine tourism industry."


Suzanne Goldenberg, environment correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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