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New Species of Undersea Life Found Near Indonesia


A team of scientists just back from combing the waters off Indonesia has announced the discovery of more than 50 new species of undersea life, including a "walking" shark and a shrimp that looks like a praying mantis. Jeffrey Young narrates.

The expedition led by Conservation International says it discovered 52 new undersea species off Indonesia's Papua province. They include 24 new species of fish, 22 new corals and eight new species of shrimp.

Sebastian Troeng, the conservation group's Director of Marine Strategies, said the new fish species include two species of shark that "walk" on their fins.

"Its not very often that new species of sharks are found and finding two of them within these two surveys is very exciting,” says Mr. Troeng. “These are smaller sharks, about three or four feet in length [.91 to 1.22 meters]. They live on shallow reed flats and they come out at night to look for prey, things like crabs, snails and probably small fish, but mainly things that live at the bottom. And so these sharks have large pectoral fins which they can use almost to walk over the substrate."

The team said papers on two of the new fish species -- called flasher wrasse because of the bright colors the male exhibits during mating -- have been accepted for publication in Aqua, the Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology. The group is also in the process of writing papers on the other species.

This region, known as "Asia's Coral Triangle" has been poorly studied and is not often visited by marine biologists. But Troeng says its richness of coral and other species could make it more important than Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

"The number of species now recorded -- 1,233 species of coral reef fish -- is close to the just over 1400 species found in the Great Barrier Reef. And, in terms of corals, there are actually more species found in the Bird's Head Seascape than in the Great Barrier Reef."

The U.S.-based Conservation International team says the remote and extensive area is under danger from fishermen who use dynamite and cyanide to net their catches. The group called on Indonesia's government to protect the region.