Biology

Are There Sharks With Legs?

Have you ever caught an idea about sharks walking along the sea shores? Imagine a giant monster with sharp razor teeth moving along the sand beds, it sounds like a worst nightmare comes true. For millions of years, sharks have been found wandering in the ocean world. Many shark species have hardly undergone evolutionary changes. But as time flies, some exceptional shark species evolved and even learned how to walk. The question here comes to mind is that do sharks have legs? Do they walk with legs like other land mammals? To solve this mystery, let’s meet the walking sharks.

Do sharks have legs?

The answer to this question is “NO” sharks do not have legs, but they are very good at walking on the floor of the ocean with the help of their fins, for a short time they even manage to walk on land as well as at low tides between the corals head, outer the water shores and along the ocean floor. Walking here doesn’t mean they have well developed legs and feet, but they actually learnt the skill of using their fins as feet.

Fins – Are they Sharks’ feet? 

The fins of sharks are also named as their “feet” because they can walk by using their pectoral fins located behind the head and extended to the outer side and pelvic fins located at the back side of their body. At different angles, sharks adjust the position of their fins to divert the path of water which helps them to swim and to tolerate high speed water tides. But instead of swimming around, sharks used their fins to move on the ocean ground, thus making it easier for them to fit their heads underneath coral and rocks so that they can catch their prey such as snails, small fish, and crustaceans.

Epaulette – A walking shark

Usually fishes do not survive for longer time when they are out of water, but a new shark species has recently come into the limelight known as “Epaulette sharks” which is not only a terrific swimmer but also has the ability to walk and crawl on the land or on the ocean ground. These adaptations were due to the change in the sea levels and shifting of the landscapes which forces the shark species to undergo evolutionary modifications. Their walking capability is based on paddle shaped fins that are modified by musculoskeletal attachments.

For how long do Epaulette Sharks survive?

Another adaptation, which permits the epaulette sharks to walk on land, is their ability to survive the prolonged time period with little or no oxygen. To survive this situation, they have evolved the mechanism to slow down breathing and heart rate and also limit the flow of blood to certain parts of the brain. Epaulette sharks usually have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years.

How long do Epaulette Sharks stay on land?

Epaulette sharks can stay out of water for 3 hours. Shocked? That’s true, three hours without water. Their capability to survive with little or no oxygen helps them to adapt this surviving technique, as the oxygen in their aquatic habitat is sometimes dropped by 80%, so they take a long walk of 3 hours on land. Moreover, they spend most of their time in strictly restricted areas as they are less adventurous, maybe a mile away from the reefs where they reproduce.

Are they in danger?

Yeah! To some extent, they had to face some sort of threats like climatic change affecting their ability to feed in hypoxic surroundings and their embryo development has also been affected. In New Guinea, they are being threatened from habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing, but further investigations are still required to protect them from being endangered.

Final Thoughts

Sharks do not have legs but they can walk on the ocean ground because they have evolved pectoral and pelvic fins which function the same as feet. Epaulette sharks are the only type of sharks documented till date that can walk not just in water but also on sand beds too. Exploring epaulette sharks and their adaptations in this article gives enough knowledge so that you can identify epaulette sharks whenever you get a chance to meet. 

About the author

Ameer Hamza