Expedition to Galapagos

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The attempt to understand the history of life on earth is challenging. Building "family trees" of species is hampered by the absence of information for many branches of the tree due to extinction, poor sampling of extreme environments such as the deep sea, and incomplete fossil records.

The Galápagos expedition contributed to our knowledge of certain branches of the fish "family tree" by capturing many previously unknown species in the deep, including a half-meter catshark with bright green eyes. Upon seeing it from the submersible, McCosker and Baldwin thought it was a new species, but further study of the captured specimens revealed that the new species is even more special than initially thought.

 

New Bythaelurus shark

New Bythaelurus shark
As seen from the sub at 461 m depth of Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos

(Photograph by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution)

 

catshark.gif (181842 bytes)
Bythaelurus shark still alive after capture via submersible sampling.
This shark was found at numerous deepwater locations (428-562 m) at 
Galapagos in 1995 and 1998.
(Photograph by John McCosker)

 

Studying the anatomical characteristics of this species with Dr. Leonard Compagno of the South African Museum, the foremost expert on shark phylogeny, provided evidence that the family tree of catsharks requires pruning and reinterpretation. The results, soon to be published, will add one more piece to the evolutionary puzzle. 

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