First Hybrid Sharks

January 4, 2012 by staff 

First Hybrid SharksFirst Hybrid Sharks, Hybrid black tip shark containing both Common and Australian black tip DNA.  LOCAL scientists will investigate if a new world-first hybrid shark breeding in Gold and Tweed coasts waters will become more dominant than the two species that spawned it.

A new species of shark — bred from cross-mating between a common black tip shark and Australian black tip shark — has been discovered lurking along a 2000km stretch of Queensland and NSW coastline.

The study, a collaboration between the University of Queensland, James Cook University and the NSW and Queensland governments, found a remarkable 57 hybrid sharks in our waters, signalling that the two species were interbreeding in order to adapt to climate change and that the hybrids could easily become stronger than their parents.

UQ researcher Dr Jess Morgan said the breeding had become widespread and meant the typically tropical Australian black tip shark was now extending it reach into the cooler waters south of Brisbane to where the common black tip lived.

“These two species have not merged into one,” she said.

“What we’ve found is the hybrid is carrying a mixture of both parents … they are either more like one parent or the other but carry both types of DNA.

“The way the species are different is the physical appearance, length, number of vertebrae and genetically.”

Dr Morgan said research would now try to discover if the hybrid could potentially become a super shark, eventually overtaking its parent species in what’s known as a `hybrid swarm’.

She said the pure species of the parents were still being found, but it was unknown if hybrids were fitter and would eventually overpower the pure species.

“It’s still early days, we don’t know what being a hybrid could mean,” she said.

The extraordinary discovery of interbreeding sharks is understood to be a world first.

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