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Sharks

First-Ever Adult Speartooth Sharks Tagged in Australia

posted: 11/11/15
by: Danny Clemens
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Australian scientists have tagged two elusive adult speartooth sharks, which have never before been studied in the wild.

Considered critically endangered by federal law, the rare animals were identified off the coast of Cape York, a remote peninsula in Queensland. Researchers working with the federal research agency CSIRO outfitted each shark with a satellite tag that tracks water temperature and depth.

In two months, the tags will detach from the sharks, float to the surface of the water and transmit valuable information about the sharks' movements.

Endangered speartooth shark
VirtualWolf/Flickr

"It is hoped that the information obtained from these tags will provide the first data on where adult speartooth shark live, with this data critical to obtaining a better understanding of threats to this endangered species," CSIRO researcher Dr Richard Pillans says in a news release.

Scientists originally identified the species in in the 19th century; it was not seen again until 1982, when another juvenile specimen was caught. Until now, a live adult specimen had never been formally studied in Australia.

"We currently have no idea where the adults occur, all we know is that they are found in marine environments somewhere off the northern Australian coast," Pillans adds.

The dangerously small population is estimated to contain fewer than 500 mature females, which give birth between October and December. Beyond that, very little is known about the adult population.

Although the speartooth shark is not a target of any commercial fisheries, it is occasionally caught as bycatch and sometimes targeted by recreational anglers. Certain populations in New Guinea have been threatened by recent commercial development related to mining activity.

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