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Meet Genie's Dogfish, the Most Feminist Shark Discovery Ever

Squalus clarkae, otherwise known as Genie's dogfish, is a deep-sea shark once thought to be no different from the other dogfish around it.


There's another new shark swimming around in the sea. OK, well, it's not new, but it's news to scientists that it's its own species.

Squalus clarkae, otherwise known as Genie's dogfish, is a deep-sea shark once thought to be no different from the other dogfish around it.

Here's the shark in all its glory:

According to Phys.org, research conducted and a paper written by Oceana marine biologist Mariah Pfleger, in conjunction with shark biologist Toby Daly-Engel and Florida State's Dean Grubbs and Chip Cotton, soon revealed Genie's dogfish to be a separate species in the dogfish family.

Finding a new species means getting to name it.

Squalus clarkae, aka Genie's dogfish, honors renowned shark and marine scientist Dr. Eugenie Clark.

"Dr. Clark was a trailblazer for women in shark biology. Her work showed me that it was possible to make my mark in a male-dominated field," Pfleger tells Azula in an interview. "This paper is a perfect example of how her career has influenced multiple generations of women in science: The first author is a woman who graduated from a woman-led lab."

According to Gizmodo, Clark was often referred to as "the shark lady" as she dedicated her life to marine science and the study of sharks.

Before passing away in 2015, she founded the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, discovered several fish species and discovered that not all sharks must keep swimming to breathe. (As previously reported by Azula, some species like nurse sharks and bullhead sharks can sit still on the ocean floor while their mouth muscles draw in water.)

Daly-Engel also praised the dogfish's namesake to Gizmodo. "She was not just the first female shark biologist; she was one of the first people to study sharks."

"She is the mother of us all," Daly-Engel said.

Dr. Eugenie Clark conducting research and diving. (Courtesy Mariah Pfleger)

So much excitement comes along with finding a new species, especially a new deep-sea shark, but Pfleger says her first response was just to check, and check again, that her data was correct.

"Honestly, it was less of a 'eureka!' moment and more of a 'let's run that test again to make sure I didn't make a mistake' moment," she jokes.

She tells Azula that the new species determination was confirmed with genetic testing.

This is how many new species, including large whale and dolphins, are being discovered even still today.

"When species were first being described, they based it on physical differences," Pfleger says. "Now we have genetics as a tool to reveal any differences that may not be apparent to the naked eye."

So, once upon a time, all animals that looked sort of the same got grouped into one species. Now that genetic testing is available, those big species groupings can be finely filtered.

But Pfleger says there are some noticeable physical differences in Genie's dogfish as well.

She says it has a longer body, different proportions for its first dorsal fin and different coloration on its tail than other dogfish.

After all her hard work on this discovery, Pfleger has moved to a different sector of the marine science world: science policy.

"Now I get to tell decision-makers why they should care about sharks and the oceans in general, and what they can do to help conserve ocean resources for generations to come," she says.

A big way to get policy-makers to help protect the sea is to tell them what's down there.

"This type of research is essential to the conservation and management of sharks, which currently face a multitude of threats, from overfishing and bycatch, to the global shark fin trade," Pfleger says.

"Many fisheries around the world are starting to fish in deeper and deeper waters and unfortunately, much less is known about many of the creatures that live in the deep. The first step to successfully conserving these species that live in deeper waters, like Genie's dogfish, is finding out what is down there in the first place."

With all her hard work determining this new species and now working to effect change for sharks and the sea, we think Dr. Eugenie Clark herself would be proud of Pfleger and honored to be the dogfish's namesake.

Besides, there's really nothing cooler than having a shark named after you.

Add your name right now to ban the trade of shark fins in the U.S. and protect our oceans with Oceana.

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