Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hydrolagus melanophasma - Try not to laugh

We have been avoiding this one since it broke last week, but after careful consideration, here it is.

Yes this is shark news, and yes it is science so try not to laugh:

A new ghostshark species has been identified off the coast of Southern California, and it’s darker and weirder than any shark we know.

The purplish black ancient relative of the modern shark comes packed with a suite of odd features that give its taxonomical family the name chimaera, after the mythical beast made from the parts of many animals.

“It’s a big weird looking freaky thing,” said ichthyologist Doug Long of the California Academy of Sciences. “They have some shark characteristics and they have some that are very non-shark.”

Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the newly described species, Hydrolagus melanophasma, is a presumed sexual organ that extends from its forehead called a tentaculum.

“They have this club on the top of their head with spikes. People think it’s used for mating,” Long said. “It’s like a little mace with little spikes and hooks and it fits into their forehead. It’s jointed and it comes out. We’re not sure if it is used to stimulate the female or hold the female closer.”

The species is yet another example of the tremendous, unknown biodiversity that still exists near heavily populated regions like the Los Angeles coastline. It was actually “discovered” long ago in the sense that museum specimens of the fish existed at Scripps Oceanographic Institute. But it wasn’t until a team of researchers from the Pacific Shark Research Center and the California Academy of Sciences came together to examine the odd creatures that they realized they were looking at something new.

Complete Story

Iemanya Oceanica Seeks Divers For Shark Research

The Los Angeles-based nonprofit shark organization, Iemanya Oceanica, is looking for people willing to swim with sharks for research.

Iemanya Oceanica is organizing a shark-tagging research expedition to Baja California next month and is seeking up to 20 scuba divers/snorkelers from Southern California to help.

Iemanya -- named after a Brazilian goddess of the sea -- partnering with the CICESE Research Institute in Baja and Dr. Rachel T. Graham, a world-renowned shark scientist, will travel to a known population of whale sharks in Bahia de Los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja California.

Their goal is to apply satellite tags to two to three whale sharks during the five-day expedition, departing from the Los Angeles area on Oct. 15.

Interested divers should contact Iemanya Executive Director Laleh Mohajerani.