The Southern Dogfish Centrophorus zeehaani, a new species of gulper shark endemic to southern Australia.

The Southern Dogfish Centrophorus zeehaani, a new species of gulper shark endemic to southern Australia.

Identifying, naming and describing new sharks and rays

CSIRO scientists have identified, formally named and described more than 100 new species of sharks and rays.

  • 18 September 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History

Overview

Page 1 of 2

The project classifies the largest number of elasmobranch species in a single project since classical taxonomy was founded by the famous Swedish scientist, Carl Linnaeus, in the mid 1700s.

Most of these new species are from Australian seas, which has possibly the largest shark and ray fauna on the planet.

The project named a third of Australia’s species and almost a tenth of the world’s shark and ray fauna.

The project named a third of Australia’s species and almost a tenth of the world’s shark and ray fauna. For some species groups (such as spurdogs, swell sharks and wobbegongs) more than half the world’s known species were described.

Seventy new species are featured in three special publications compiled by scientists from the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship using a modern, rapid approach to species classification.

These publications cover a diverse variety of shark, ray and chimaera groups, and include more than 50 contributed scientific papers from 25 authors from nine countries, including most of the world’s leading shark and ray taxonomists.

An additional 34 species have been described by CSIRO scientists in international journals in the past 18 months.

Analysis of DNA sequences was used to clarify the identity of closely related species. This work is part of an international taxonomic initiative, SHARK-BOL - a branch of the Fish Barcode of Life project initiated by molecular biologists at CSIRO and Canada’s University of Guelph (www.fishbol.org[external link].

The new species include:

  • The endemic, northern Freshwater Whipray and the Northern River Shark, which can grow to well over two metres in length, are amongst the largest freshwater animals found in Australia. These have been long known by some indigenous Australians but until recently were confused with similar marine species.
  • The Endangered Maugean Skate has an extremely narrow distribution. It is closely related Gondwanan ancestor lived off southern Australia some 80 million years ago, and the present day species is now clinging to life at the south-western tip of Tasmania. It is one of the only skates in the world found in brackish or freshwater and its survival could be affected by climate change.
  • A Critically Endangered gulper shark, known as the Southern Dogfish, is endemic to the continental slope off southern Australia. It has suffered severe population declines in the past few decades and has recently been included on the priority assessment list for 2008 under the Australian Government environmental legislation

Read more about Wealth from Oceans Flagship research.