Land shark alert! Epaulette sharks use their paddle-like fins to “walk.” It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. And certainly not a threat to humans. It also isn’t a new discovery. It is, however, very cool and actually quite cute. They move this way both in the ocean and across land when exposed during a low tide. Like many animals that live in shallow water and tidepools, these sharks have adapted to survive both in and out of the ocean. The Nature video below shows just how well they manage, and it’s remarkable to watch them wriggle across the rocks.
Epaulette sharks are also able to slow their breathing and heart rate to conserve oxygen when out of the water. They shut down non-essential systems in order to survive without breathing. It’s possible that the first terrestrial animals to come out of the ocean had similar adaptations. The video from National Geographic below shows the walking behavior both on land and under the water. And you can also really see how their markings help them camouflage as well.
Epaulette sharks get their name from the distinct markings that look like a military uniform’s shoulder epaulettes. They only grow to about three feet long and eat worms, crabs, and shrimp, among other invertebrates. Thankfully, the shark isn’t listed as endangered. There are some epaulette sharks in aquariums around the world, so you can check out its walking behavior for yourself.
Great white sharks are usually the ones to make dramatic news. But there’s so many fascinating species to learn about as well. Epaulette sharks also aren’t the only cute sharks and we don’t talk about those nearly enough!
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.