Shark species thought to be extinct is rediscovered by accident in a Kuwait fish market

Shark market photo
CC BY-SA 2.0 Flickr

Guess what's on the menu?

Despite what hollywood would like you to believe, sharks have a lot more to fear from humans than vice versa. Estimates vary, but it's believed that up to 100 million sharks are killed by people every year while the "average number of fatalities worldwide per year between 2001 and 2006 from unprovoked shark attacks is 4.3". Even sharks that experts thought were probably extinct are apparently on the menu in some parts of the world...

The smoothtooth blacktip shark (Carcharhinus leiodon) first surfaced in the scientific world after a specimen was brought back from Yemen in 1902 by naturalist Wilhelm Hein. Well, it was discovered in 1902, but the shark held by the Vienna Museum actually sat unnoticed by naturalists until 1985 when it was identified as the first (and only known) specimen of Carcharhinus leiodon.

Smoothtooth blacktip sharkWikimedia/Public Domain

Because no others had ever been found by scientists, Alec Moore, regional vice chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group’s Indian Ocean group, says that “some suspected it might be extinct or not a valid species.”

In 2008, during a Shark Conservation Society research expedition to Kuwait’s sharq fish market (the name is a coincidence, it means east in Arabic), Moore says that “amongst the many species of whaler shark was one which looked very similar, but different, to a couple of other species.” Later analysis revealed that although this specimen was more than 3,000 kilometers from where Hein caught his, this was a smoothtooth blacktip, the first new individual seen by scientists in over a century. (source)

But the story doesn't end there. Surveys of fish markets in the region have surfaced 47 additional smoothtooth blacktip sharks!

This doesn't necessarily mean that the smoothtooth blacktip species is in robust health, but it definitely seems to be in better shape than was thought by the experts. Good news, for a change, because sharks in general are under great pressure from commercial fishing and habitat destruction.

Via Scientific American, Grist

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