Friday, September 6, 2013

[Ichthyology • 2010] Hemiscyllium michaeli | Milne Bay epaulette shark • a new species of Bamboo Shark (Hemiscyllidae) from Papua New Guinea

Hemiscyllium michaeli G. R. Allen & Dudgeon, 2010
Milne Bay epaulette shark
photo by Scott W. Michael |

Holotype: USNM 218602, female, 610 mm TL, coral reef in Harvey Bay, east of Oro Bay, Papua New Guinea, 0-10 m, T. Roberts, 6-7 August 1975. 

Diagnosis: A species of bamboo shark belonging to the genus Hemiscyllium, distinguished from related species by a unique colour pattern, particu-larly the combination of dense leopard-like spotting on the body and a large black ocellate spot on the middle of the side, just behind the head. It lacks diagnostic colour pattern features that typify the other known species in the genus including: black hood or face-mask marking on the head (H. strahani), large intensely black ovate spots on body (H. hallstromi), ocellate shoulder spot and numerous small black spots on body (H. ocellatum), ocellate shoulder spot with two curved black marks on posterior edge and numerous diffuse dark spots on head body and fins (H. trispeculare), row of 7-8 large, horizontally ovate spots on lower side between abdomen and caudal-fin base (H. galei), "double-ocellus" shoulder marking (H. henryi) and a fragmented or diffuse shoulder marking and sparse spot pattern on dorsal surface of snout (H. freycineti). 

Distribution and habitat: The new species is known only from eastern Papua New Guinea (Fig. 1) with observation and collecting records from Samarai Island, Milne Bay (vicinity of Alotau and Sullivan Patches), vicinity of Harvey Bay (Oro Province), and the Trobriand Islands. It is typically encountered on coastal fringing reefs and patch reefs while diving at night, although it is sometimes seen during the day, sheltering under rocky outcrops or tabular corals. The known depth range is approximately 2-20 m. 

Etymology: The species is named H. michaeli in honour of Scott W. Michael, who first brought the difference between this species and H. freycineti to our attention. In addition, he has contributed a wealth of information, including valuable photographs, for the first author's research on Indo-Pacific fishes. 

Allen & Dudgeon. 2010. Hemiscyllium michaeli, a new species of Bamboo Shark (Hemiscyllidae) from Papua New Guinea. Aqua International Journal of Ichthyology. 16 (1): 19–30.