New shark species found in Gulf

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Ichthyologists have described a new species of shark from the Gulf of California.

The new shark is a member of the Smoothhound shark group and has been named Mustelus hacat by a team of Mexican scientists who have recently reported their findings in the ichthyological journal Copeia.

Juan Carlos Perez Jimenez, Oscar Sosa Nishizaki, and Jose Leonardo Castillo Geniz, who work at the Department of Oceanographic Biology at CICESE in Mexico say that the new Mustelus brings the total number of species in the eastern North Pacific to five.

Mustelus hacat was described following the capture of 36 specimens of the new species in the Gulf of California.

The team says that hacat is very unusual among existing Mustelus as it has a uniform grey-brown colour, with a white belly and bright white markings on the tip and trailing edge of the dorsal fin, pectorals, anal fin and tail.

However, despite this striking colouration, the scientists say that the other four species found in the area (M. dorsalis, M. henlei, M. californicus and M. lunulatus) have been confused with each other and they have produced a new identification key to tell the species apart.

For more details on the new shark species see the paper: Perez Jimenez JC, Nishizaki OS and JL Castillo Geniz (2005) - A New Eastern North Pacific Smoothhound Shark (Genus Mustelus, Family Triakidae) from the Gulf of California. Copeia: Vol. 2005, No. 4, pp. 834"845.