September 2, 2013 – It sounds like something out of a movie or a nightmare; a new species of shark has been discovered…that walks!
The "walking" shark, Hemiscyllium halmahera, lives in a reef off of the isolated Indonesian island of Halmahera, which it was named after. It is a part of the same genus as epaulette sharks. Of all of the known epaulette and walking sharks, six of the nine species live in Indonesia.
These sharks don't have two legs or walk like humans (thankfully). Instead they touch the sea floor as they swim and use their pectoral and dorsal fins like tiny legs to move in a walklike way.
But don't worry; they don't pose any danger to humans. They only grow up to 70 centimetres (27 inches) long. Adult walking sharks lay their eggs under coral ledges and, once hatched, young sharks lead pretty simple lives.
The discovery of this shark just so happened to be shortly after Indonesia announced several new laws to protect the shark population in its waters. Sharks and rays are worth more money alive than they are dead because they are such big tourist attractions. If there are no sharks and rays for tourists to see, fewer and fewer tourists will come and the country's tourism industry will suffer.
"We now know, for instance, that a living manta ray is worth up to US $1.9 million to our economy over the course of its lifetime, compared to a value of only $40 to $200 for its meat and gill-rakers," said Agus Dermawan, the director of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries' Marine Conservation Directorate.