Tuesday 11 March 2014

A new species of Sawshark from the Philippines.

Sawsharks (Pristiophoridae) are highly specialized Sharks related to Skates and Rays (Batoids). They have flattened bodies and highly elongate snouts, with rows of lateral teeth, which are used to sideswipe prey Fish, stunning them prior to consumption. Sawsharks are a small group, with seven species currently recognised in two genera. The earliest known fossil Sawsharks date to the Late Cretaceous, although their sister-group relationship with the Batoids suggests the group may be somewhat older.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 24 December 2013, David Ebert of the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the Department of Ichthyology at the California Academy of Sciences and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, and Hana Wilms of the Marine Biology Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, describe a new species of Sawshark from four specimens caught in the waters off the Philippines in 1966 (these specimens have been preserved in the ichthyological collection of the California Academy of Sciences since their capture, and have previously been referred to as members of an undescribed species in several publications, but have not been formally described until now), and two further specimens caught in 2008.

The new species is placed in the genus Pristiophorus, and given the specific name lanae, in honour of Lana Ebert, a Shark enthusiast (and presumably a relative of David Ebert), in honour of her graduation from the University of San Francisco. Pristophorus lanae is a slender bodied five-gilled Sawshark with a narrow, relatively long rostrum (snout). Colouration is a uniform dark brown above, lighter below, with no bars, blotches or other distinctive markings. The largest specimen is 830 mm in length, and the smallest 396 mm. The specimens were caught at depths of between 229 m and 593 m.

Specimen of Pristophorus lanae caught northwest of Baltazar Island in the Philippines on 10 December 1966. Ebert & Wilms (2013).