New 'bigeye' shark species found lurking in deep water - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

New 'bigeye' shark species found lurking in deep water

A sixgill shark lurks in the deep waters off of the Gulf of Mexico in this 2004 file photo. It turns out that scientists have determined these sharks are a separate species. (Source: NOAA) A sixgill shark lurks in the deep waters off of the Gulf of Mexico in this 2004 file photo. It turns out that scientists have determined these sharks are a separate species. (Source: NOAA)

(RNN) – Through genetic investigation, scientists have uncovered a new species of shark in the deep waters of the Atlantic basin.  

Scientists determined that the bigeye sixgill sharks are different enough on a mitochondrial level from their relatives in the Pacific and Indian oceans to be considered a distinct species.

The scientists proposed the name "Atlantic sixgill shark" and the taxonomic name "Hexanchus vitulus" for the new species.

Not much is known about these sixgill sharks - including how many there are - because they live in deep waters and aren't often encountered by humans, the Florida Institute of Technology said.

Samples of the sharks were taken from the waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico, Belize and the Bahamas. 

Sixgill sharks have sawlike lower teeth and six or seven gill slits. They are also among the oldest creatures on Earth, with ancestors dating back over 250 million years, well before the dinosaurs, Florida Tech said.

Knowing that there are two distinct species will help people better understand and preserve the Atlantic sixgills.

“Because we now know there are two unique species, we have a sense of the overall variation in populations of sixgills. We understand that if we overfish one of them, they will not replenish from elsewhere in the world,” said Toby Daly-Engel, assistant professor of biological science at Florida Tech, who led the study.

The genomic detective work was done at the the Daly-Engel Lab at Florida Tech, led by Daly-Engel along with colleagues at MarAlliance, Florida State University Coastal and Marine Library and NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center.

The findings were published in the Feb. 13 edition of Marine Biodiversity.

The school seemed to be enjoying its newfound brush with fame as word of the discovery spread on Twitter.

Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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