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Postdoc alumnus and senior researcher discover two new species of shark!

What a find! Andrew Temple, Newcastle alumnus and Postdoctoral Research Associate in Marine Biology, was part of the team that discovered two new species of rare six-gilled sawsharks in the West Indian Ocean.

This incredible discovery was made by a team of international researchers, also including Per Berggren, senior lecturer in Marine Biology at Newcastle University and leader of the Marine MEGAfauna Lab.

Sawsharks have a similar appearance to sawfish (which are actually a type of ray), but are much smaller – growing to about 1.5 meters in length. They have a rather unique way of hunting and eating, using their serrated snouts to kill their prey (chiefly fish, crustaceans and squid) and then break them up into bite-sized chunks.

Andrew Temple’s interdisciplinary focus lies in the impact of humans on marine environments, specifically the effects of fisheries, offshore construction and tourism, with a particular interest in tropical marine megafauna (such as sea turtles, sharks and marine mammals). These two new species – Pliotrema kajae and Pliotrema annea – may already be threatened by fishing, highlighting the importance of understanding more about biodiversity in coastal waters around the world.

“Despite their name, small-scale fisheries employ around 95% of the world’s fishers,” Temple and Berggren told The Conversation. “There is very little information available about their fishing effort – that is, how many fishers there, and where, when and how they fish, as well as exactly what they catch. With the discovery of two new species, the need to properly assess the impact of small-scale fisheries on marine life is even more urgent.”

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published on: 8 April 2020