World's first hybrid shark is found off Australia - and interbreeding could make them stronger

Scientists have found the world's first hybrid sharks in waters off Australia - a discovery that researchers said could have implications for the whole world.

The predators are a cross between the common blacktip shark and the Australian blacktip shark.

Scientists say interbreeding between the two species is a sign the animals are adapting to warmer waters. They have also warned it could make the sharks stronger.

Leading researchers in marine biology discovered 57 animals along a 200 kilometre stretch of ocean from Queensland to New South Wales.

Dr Jess Morgan, of the University of Queensland, said it was unusual for sharks to breed this way: 'Sharks physically mate, which is usually a good way to make sure you don't hybridize with the wrong species.'

Simpendorfer said that if the hybrid proved to be stronger than the two pure breeds, it might eventually replace them, 'We don't know whether that's the case here, but certainly we know that they are viable, they reproduce and that there are multiple generations of hybrids.

'Certainly it appears that they are fairly fit individuals.'

Colin Simpfendorfer, of James Cook University's Fishing Research Centre, agreed: 'The results of this research show that we still have a lot to learn about these important ocean predators.'

Dr Jennifer Ovenden of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries said: 'Hybridization could enable the sharks to adapt to environmental change, as the smaller Australian black tip currently favours tropical waters in the north while the larger common black tip is more abundant in sub-tropical waters along the south-eastern Australian coastline.'

Read more on the strange, hybrid sharks at The Australian.

A hybrid black tip shark containing both common and Australian black tip DNA in Australian waters. The mating of the local Australian black-tip shark with its global counterpart, was an unprecedented discovery with implications for the entire shark world

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