Kristin Walovich


Thesis summary:

A lack of taxonomic clarity has negative implications for many facets of chondrichthyan research including proper identification, acquisition of basic life history information, and the implementation of fisheries management and conservation efforts. There is a misconception that the taxonomy of sharks, rays and chimaeras, has been fully resolved, yet over last decade and a half over 230 new species have been described, representing c. 20% of global biodiversity (Simpfendorfer et al. 2011, Ebert and van Hees 2015).

The Order Chimaeriformes, also known as ghost sharks or chimaeras, is an enigmatic and understudied group of fishes particularly vulnerable to impacts of deep-sea fisheries. This vulnerability is compounded by taxonomic uncertainties and a lack of life history information, especially for short-nosed chimaeras of the genus Hydrolagus (Family Chimaeridae) from the southern African region. Given historical and current taxonomic ambiguity and its impacts on management and conservation, the main objective of my study is to provide an assessment of the diversity of the short nose chimaeras from the Southern African region. Three or more species exist here, yet very little information is available for the African Chimaera (Hydrolagus africanus) and two or more species have yet to be formally described. Determining species composition will enable the development and dissemination of reliable identification material and range maps to improve fisheries statistics, initiate ecological research and facilitate appropriate conservation efforts.