This shark walks like a gecko

JAKARTA - A new shark species that walks has been found in the waters off North Maluku's Halmahera island.

The hemiscyllium halmahera shark uses its four fins to wriggle across the seabed and forage for small fish and crustaceans, said scientists from Conservation International (CI).

"This shark is harmless and...walks like a gecko. It doesn't have typical shark teeth; it has teeth to crush small shelled animals," said Mr Mark Erdmann, a senior adviser to CI's marine programme.

Due to its inability to swim swiftly, the shark eats only small animals on the seabed.

The shark, which has a distinctive mottled brown-and-white colour, swims only if it feels threatened by a predator.

Walking sharks have been found in Kaimana and Cendrawasih, West Papua, in the past decade, but the species just discovered is much smaller, said Mr Erdmann.

The halmahera can measure 83cm in length and weigh 1.5kg, while its cousins in Kaimana can grow to 100cm.

There are only nine species of walking sharks in the world, six of which live in Indonesian waters, while the other three are scattered in the waters surrounding Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.