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Extinction Risk and the Small Population Paradigm in the Micro-Endemic Radiation of Epaulette (Hemiscyllium) Sharks
The Epaulette sharks (or walking sharks) in the genus Hemiscyllium comprise nine species, of which two are classified as Near Threatened and five as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Here, we summarize the current taxonomy, biology, IUCN Red List status, threats, and conservation status of the Epaulette sharks. We find that the Epaulette sharks are facing direct threats from local, small-scale fisheries and indirect threats of habitat loss and degradation from climate change, coastal development, and industrial effluents. Many species benefit from protection in the extensive Marine Protected Areas in the Raja Ampat region. But in order to effectively conserve this unique radiation of sharks, priority must be placed on protecting the shallow near-shore habitats where they live and carefully managing the small-scale fisheries that have the potential to cause local extinction due to low population numbers and extremely restricted geographic ranges.