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Rare breed of ‘walking shark’ spotted on beach for the first time in history

Every year, Discovery Channel runs a week-long celebration of our favourite ocean predator: sharks. Termed ‘Shark Week’, the channel showcases these infamous creatures in all their glory on various programmes created especially for the event. This year, biologist Forrest Gallante hosted Island of the Walking Sharks and captured some never before seen footage of—you guessed it—walking sharks.

Now don’t panic, we’re not talking about Jaws popping out of the ocean for a morning jog here. The predator in question is the rare epaulette shark, scientific name Hemiscyllium Ocellatum, and is usually a cream or brown colour with spots. This little guy can grow up to just over a foot in length, so there’s no danger of it actually chasing you down the beach.

However, the epaulette can survive up to an hour out of water as it forages for food in tide pools and uses its fins to ‘walk’ across the rocks.

Gallante was ecstatic after witnessing the event. “This is the first time in history one of the Papuan species of epaulettes has been documented walking,” he said.

“This is so incredible. All traits are selected for, when it allows a species to survive better and eke out an environment where they’re safe and can get food…But once they’re done, they’re trapped. What epaulettes have learned to do is climb up in the reef and plop themselves in the next tide pool.”

Epaulette sharks only feast on worms, bony fish and crustaceans, so there’s no need to worry about one of us becoming a tasty snack for them. That being said, however, future generations might have to watch out as these walking sharks have the potential to evolve and head to shores worldwide with rising temperatures. But as of today, it’s safe to say that the breed is the last one on the list you should be worried about.

Gallante also received mountains of praise on social media after the programme was broadcast, with one fan writing, “@ForrestGalante once again, Forrest has my fav show on shark week. That was awesome. Thank you!” and another saying: “Dude, this is a show I didn’t think I’d like that is absolutely captivating!!!”

Gallante himself admitted that he ‘totally freaked out’ when he witnessed the world-first scene play out in front of him and has since urged people to catch up on the show on Discovery.