Contributor: Gracie Choate
September 13, 2023
Breaking news! A new shark update just dropped in the northwestern Australian ocean, but don’t worry, this new shark isn’t one to be afraid of. The new shark in question is a cute lil’ guy in the heterodontiformes order, given the name Painted Hornshark. This order of shark has super cool teeth; normal shark teeth in front, and flatter, almost human-like molars in the back. The “molars” are for crunching up prey like mollusks and crustaceans, which is their main diet.
To say my friends and I were ecstatic when news of this shark species was revealed is an understatement. Between my shark loving college friend and myself, an aspiring marine biologist, we spoke entirely too long about this shark. I also may or may not have sent news of the discovery to most of the people I know… haha oops.
In all honesty, to say the Painted Horn Shark is a new shark can be misleading if you don’t know much about the shark world. While it is a new species, it has been seen before, it was just never distinguished from it very similar looking relative, the Zebra Bullhead Shark. In fact, the discovery was only made by accident, when a crew was surveying seabed habitats. They found a live male, then referenced the species name and compared to museum specimens.
As stated by Dr. Will White in CSIRO’s article on the matter, “both species are pale with 22 dark brown bands and saddles, but they have small differences in the markings on their snouts and below their gill slits.” (Fin-tastic find: new species of Australian shark). The differences are so minimal and include slight marking variations and different egg sacs. It’s no surprise it took so long to discover the 'new' type of shark.
When new species are discovered, it gives me hope that maybe one day, I too will be able to discover a species. With approximately eighty percent of our oceans left unexplored, it’s likely that any of us can discover a new oceanic species. So watch out, one day my name will be in an article discussing a new species too.
Are you interested in learning more about the Painted Horn Shark? Check out these articles!