They may not look very different, but a group of sharks discovered off the coast of eastern Australia are unlike any other in existence.
The sharks, which are a cross between the closely related common blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) and the Australian blacktip shark (Carcharhinus tilstoni), are the first hybrid sharks ever discovered. Researchers from the University of Queensland published their findings in the journal Conservation Genetics last month.
The Australian blacktip is smaller and found in warmer waters than the common blacktip. Researchers who made the discovery believe the hybrids may be an adaptation to climate change and changing sea temperatures, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
CNN reports that 57 hybrid sharks were discovered along a 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) stretch of coast from Queensland to New South Wales.
Lead researcher Jess Morgan said, "If [the Australian blacktip] hybridizes with the common species it can effectively shift its range further south into cooler waters, so the effect of this hybridizing is a range expansion. "It's enabled a species restricted to the tropics to move into temperate waters," reported the International Business Times.
In other shark discovery news, a fisherman in Mexico discovered an albino cyclops shark fetus earlier in 2011.
CLARIFICATION: The Australian Broadcasting Corporation states the hybrid sharks are "a potential sign the predators are adapting to cope with climate change." According to a press release from The University of Queensland, one of the researchers said, "Hybridisation could enable the sharks to adapt to environmental change."