Scientists of the coast of Australia have uncovered a new type of shark, a hybrid. This leads researchers to believe that sharks may be adapting to climate change and species are coping by interbreeding.
The world’s first report of any hybrid shark, this new species includes the Australian black-tip and the more common and wider spread black-tip shark.
"It's very surprising because no one's ever seen shark hybrids before, this is not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination," Jeff Morgan, lead researcher from the University of Queensland, told AFP.
The discovery occurred while the researchers were conducting cataloguing work off Australia's east coast when one scientist noticed that samples from genetic testing showed certain sharks to be one species when physically they resembled a different species.
The Australian black-tip shark is found in the warmer, northern waters while, the common black-tip, is usually found in the cooler southern waters. So far scientists have documented 57 of the hybrids is four separate location of the coast.
If it hybridizes with the common species it can effectively shift its range further south into cooler waters, so the effect of this hybridizing is a range expansion," Morgan said.
But not everyone was certain that this was intentional on the shark’s part and may actually just be nature in action.
Dr. Nigella Hillgarth of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps told KMFB, "Usually when you get a hybrid zone, it's because in a species like this, one species prefers to mate with the other, so it may be the males find the females really exciting and so that's what's happening.”
Hillgarth continued, “I don't think there's any conscious desire on their part to think, oh, we have to survive because of climate change."
Colin Simpfendorfer, from James Cook University explained, this discovery could challenge traditional ideas of how sharks had and were continuing to evolve.
"We thought we understood how species of sharks have separated, but what this is telling us is that in reality we probably don't fully understand the mechanisms that keep species of shark separate," he said.