Epaulette sharks are cute, can walk and look all at first glance fairly similar. But if you take your time to look closer on those markings, you can find differences. Just like American marine biologist and author Scott W. Michael did, and he discovered that on some pictures and specimen of the common Indonesian speckled carpetshark the shark should not have those large and defined spots remarkably similar to the spots of a leopard. He informed his colleague Gerald Allen, and so, after genetic tests, in 2010 a new species of the genus Hemiscyllium off (the Milne Bay Province region of) eastern Papua New Guinea was named after him: the Milne Bay epaulette shark or Leopard epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium michaeli).
Like the majority of the other 8 species of its genus of the family Hemiscylliidae (Bamboo sharks or longtail carpet sharks), the up to 27.4 in – 69.5 cm – long Milne Bay epaulette shark is considered Near Threatened due to its small home range in shallow inshore coral reef waters with problems from overheating, overfishing and destructive fishing practices like dynamite fishing. Additionally, it suffers greatly from habitat degradation due to pollution and siltation from recent gold mining in the region (cyanide poisoning, river run-off and direct dumping of waste) and from ongoing logging and palm oil plantations. Producing and using palm oil not only endangers our air, our soil, our flora and fauna, out health and our atmosphere, but our oceans, too.