Sharks are evolving to walk on land, and Shark Week is bringing the proof as it’s filmed for the first time in history.
“Scientists determined that walking sharks only evolved around 9 million years ago, making them the ‘youngest’ sharks on our planet,” offers conservationist and biologist Forrest Galante ahead of Shark Week. “They’ve evolved to withstand hypoxic environments with low oxygen levels like the tide pools they often find themselves trapped in by increasing blood supply to their brain and shutting down non-essential brain functions.”
That’s a lot to take in, but the short of it is: Bamboo sharks can walk on land. Audiences will see it for the first time in the Shark Week 2022 special: Island of the Walking Sharks.
“These sharks typically choose to move by using their pectoral and pelvic fins to walk along the seafloor rather than swim like we see in most other shark species,” he tells PEOPLE, describing the incredible new footage:
Island of the Walking Sharks | Shark WeekDiscovery
Above, Galante captures the footage with his team, and his excitement is palpable.
“Several species have even been documented walking out of the water in isolated tidal pools and reefs. But none in Papua New Guinea,” he cites.
His Shark Week special follows the conservationist and his team as they travel to Papua New Guinea. There, they “definitively prove” that bamboo sharks, or epaulette sharks can and are evolving to walk on land.
‘Shark Week’ Shock: Bamboo Sharks Use Fins to Walk on Land
The species uses their fins to briefly walk on land. They will emerge completely from the water, marking a distinct evolutionary difference from all other sharks.
“Epaulette sharks [mostly live] in coral reefs where they hunt crustaceans, worms, and small fish,” Galante describes. “As the tide drops, individuals [sometimes enter] tidal pools and shallow pockets of water. By using their fins to walk out of the water and back into the open ocean, these sharks have developed the ability to ‘walk’ across sections of exposed coral reef and rock.”
Now, the conservationist hopes Island of the Walking Sharks will inspire others to see sharks in a new light. These misunderstood creatures – of all species – are in dire need of our help.
“It’s critical that we do our very best to further our knowledge base of species like epaulette sharks to ensure their long-term conservation,” he tells PEOPLE.
Catch Galante’s full commentary and encounter with these walking sharks when Shark Week‘s Island of the Walking Sharks premieres on July 27 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT via Discovery and Discovery+.