New shark and ray species found

March 21, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 02:02 am IST

From the Indian waters, a unique and pleasant challenge has suddenly surfaced — 13 new species of sharks and rays. Researchers were bar coding sharks and rays found in the Indian waters when they came across these new species.

The researchers are busy naming them before adding to the list of sharks and rays found in the Indian waters. The results of 111 species of sharks and rays that were bar coded were published last month in the journal Mitochondrial DNA.

The DNA bar coding was successfully used for accurate identification of chondrichthyans which included the chimaeras, sharks, rays, and skates in the Indian waters, according to A. Gopalakrishnan, director, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi, one of the leading partners in the project. The chondrichthyans are exploited in commercial, artisanal, and recreational fishing activities but the major catch occurs incommercial fishery. They are highly vulnerable to over exploitation and habitat degradation due to their life history.

With an estimated landing of 46,471 tonnes, India is one of the leading chondrichthyan fishing nations for the past several years. Despite the rich diversity and long history of the elasmobranch fishery, only a few detailed studies have been undertaken on the taxonomy and diversity of this group in India, pointed out the paper.

The Kochi unit of the Peninsular and Marine Fish Genetic Resources Centre and the National Research Collections Australia, Hobart, Tasmania and Australia partnered in the research project.

During the analysis, 528 specimens of 111 chondrichthyan species and 34 families, collected from the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone were bar coded, said K.K. Bineesh, the lead author of the paper.

With the bar coding, it has now become easy for the identification of the species from its tissues, be it salted or even dried samples.

Recently, the government had imposed a ban on the export of shark fins. Five species of sharks and two manta ray species found in Indian waters have been included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora for monitoring its international trade. The protected species have to be accurately identified in the field or at the export/trade levels to ensure their effective protection and prevention of illegal trade. “The documentation would help in strictly enforcing the conservation drive of the species,” Dr. Bineesh said.

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