When I think about sea creatures I wouldn’t mind being able to join us on land, sharks are definitely not high on my list.
In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, that list is pretty short.
Maybe whales? And…crabs? I don’t know.
At any rate, I don’t get to decide things like evolutionary capabilities, so these epaulette sharks are slithering up the beach whether I like it or not.
If you’re scared of sharks, you probably aren’t keen on knowing that there are at least nine species of shark that can use their fins to move in shallow water, and even briefly on land.
That said, even though “walking” sharks have been documented previously, the recent footage of a epaulette shark moving from the water onto land during Discovery’s Shark Week is pretty sensational.
The video was shot on Papua New Guinea, during Island of the Walking Sharks, and though the teaser claims the footage is “the first time in history one of the Papuan species has been documented walking,” a Twitter thread is pushing back.
Epaulette sharks are small and honestly kind of cute; some people even keep them as pets. And even if the video isn’t technically new information, it’s clear and there’s a good chance a majority of laypeople haven’t been aware sharks can “walk” on land until now.
Sharks that can “walk” typically do so on the ocean bottom, where laying flat allows them to hunt for prey under rocks and corals. All of the known sharks that exhibit this behavior reside off the coasts of New Guinea, Australia, and Indonesia, but scientists believe there are almost certainly more species out there able to do the same.
We don’t know for sure how many can come out of the water to display the behavior on land, but marine biologists believe they probably evolved from a bony fish, not a shark at all.
Evolution is definitely at play, here, but more study is needed to understand why some of these sharks now walk on land as well as on the bottom of the ocean.
For now, I’m going to be ok with the fact that I live far away from the ocean.
A visit from time to time will suffice.