Shark mystery: Scientists baffled by 'top predators' evolving quickly to 'WALK' ...

SHARKS have fascinated scientists for decades, but one species left them baffled after they discovered the "top predators" were evolving quickly to be able to "walk" on land.

PUBLISHED: 17:59, Sat, Oct 10, 2020 | UPDATED: 18:01, Sat, Oct 10, 2020

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The epaulette shark is a species of long-tailed carpet shark, found in the shallow tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef and grows up to four feet in length. This predator has nocturnal habits and frequents these water at night, searching for food, at a time when the tide is normally out. As a result, over time, this shark has evolved to cope with the severe oxygen depletion in isolated tidal pools by increasing the blood supply to its brain and selectively shutting down non-essential neural functions. 

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Known by their nickname as “walking sharks” they move their pectoral fins in the front and pelvic fins in the back to plod along the seafloor – or even atop coral reefs, outside the water, at low tide.

Such mobility allows the sharks to wriggle between tide pools and different areas of the reef to prey upon crabs, shrimp, small fish—just about anything they can find.

Christine Dudgeon, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, noted: “During low tides, they became the top predator on the reef.”

A long-term study by an international group of researchers found four new species of sharks in the last decade, bringing the total to nine.

The shark left experts baffled by its speedy evolutionThe shark left experts baffled by its speedy evolution (Image: GETTY)

The epaulette shark is a species of long-tailed carpet sharkThe epaulette shark is a species of long-tailed carpet shark (Image: GETTY)

And in a paper published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research, the team showed that these species all evolved in the last nine million years.

Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Programme for Shark Research at the University of Florida, said they were stumped by the find as most sharks evolve much slower.

Sixgill sharks, for example, “seem stuck back in time,” according to the expert.

He added: “We see animals from 180 million years ago with exactly the same teeth.”

But the walking sharks are likely still evolving in their native tropical

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