Two new species of guitarfish discovered in Omani waters

By M Najmuz Zafar, Muscat Daily,
20. December 2011

In a major discovery, scientists working with Shark Project Oman (SPO), a project instituted to protect and manage stocks of elasmobranch class of species like sharks, rays, sawfish and guitarfish in Omani waters, has discovered two new species of guitarfish.

Working on the new species for over a year, Aaron Henderson, principal investigator of SPO, and assistant professor at the department of Marine Science & Fisheries, SQU, is writing a paper on this research for publication in a science journal.

Till then Henderson doesn’t not want to reveal much except that these two species are new to science. “We have completed genetic analysis and, yes, it has confirmed that the two guitarfish species are new to science.”

He added that this discovery shows how little we know about the local fish species. “In order to manage fisheries properly, it is important to understand all aspects of a species’ biology – growth rates, reproductive cycles etc. Finding new species shows us that we’re not sure about what species exist here, let alone the detailed aspects of their biology.”

Apart from the new findings, SPO’s other major research is focused on sharks in the region. Currently, the team is busy collecting parasites from sharks sampled in markets and whilst fishing.

“We have identified the parasites from the sharks in collaboration with a colleague from Hiroshima University, Japan. At the moment, we are just interested in cataloguing the species relationships (parasite and host), and it will take a lot more time and research before we can use this information to tell us about the ecology of sharks here,” said Henderson.

Talking about shark tagging, Henderson said that the aim of this part of the project is to determine what migrations the sharks might be undertaking.

“Regarding the tagging, we have not had any feedback about recaptures. We know that some fishermen have captured a few of our tagged sharks. But, the fishermen have not reported these recaptures, so we have no idea what animals they captured and in which area.”

However, Henderson said that few of the satellite tags have provided the team with some interesting information. “One shark that was tagged in Musandam travelled through the Straits of Hormuz, down to Abu Dhabi and then up to Qatar, all in the span of three months. This shows that some sharks are moving through various territorial waters, and a combined effort will be required to manage shark fisheries in the region.”

Henderson believes people can help the project by submitting information or sighting of sharks on website like “Photos of whale sharks in particular should be submitted to this website.”


Three undescribed guitarfish species ( Rhinobatos species ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ ) are featured on page 8-10 of the

Field guide to the elasmobranchs of south-east Arabia, Part two: Guitarfishes and sawfishes .

You can find the link to download the PDF of the guide in our Publication Section ( HERE ).

Source: Muscat Daily


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