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Shark That Walks on Fins Is Discovered

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By MICHAEL CASEY
The Associated Press
Monday, September 18, 2006; 7:05 PM

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Scientists combing through undersea fauna off Indonesia's Papua province said Monday they had discovered dozens of new species, including a shark that walks on its fins and a shrimp that looks like a praying mantis.

The team from U.S.-based Conservation International also warned that the area _ known as Bird's Head Seascape _ is under danger from fishermen who use dynamite and cyanide to net their catches and called on Indonesia's government to do more to protect it.

"It's one of the most stunningly beautiful landscapes and seascapes on the planet," said Mark Erdmann, a senior adviser of Conservation International who led two surveys to the area earlier this year.

"Above and below water, it's simply mind blowing," he said.

Erdmann and his team claim to have discovered 52 new species, including 24 new species of fish, 20 new species of coral and eight new species of shrimp. Among the highlights were an epaulette shark that walks on its fins, a praying mantis-like shrimp and scores of reef-building corals, he said.

Conservation International said papers on two of the new fish species, called flasher wrasse because of the bright colors the male exhibits during mating, have been accepted for publication to the Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology.

The group is in the process of writing papers on the other species, it said.

Carden Wallace, a coral expert and principal scientist at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville, Australia, said she was not surprised by the finding "mostly because it is a remote location and hasn't been visited by scientists very much."

Wallace said the finds should give scientists crucial data.

"This will give us a better understanding of where all this diversity originates from and how vulnerable it may be," Wallace said.

Erdmann said the discoveries add to an already legendary reputation for the area, which stretches for 70,000 square miles on the northwestern end of Indonesia's Papua province.

Dubbed Asia's "Coral Triangle," it is home to more than 1,200 species of fish and almost 600 species of reef-building coral, or 75 percent of the world's known total.


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