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Italian News - May 4

Biologists here have said the sighting of a huge, rare species of shark in the sea near the toe of Italy is both good and bad news for the environment. The Java Shark, a threatened species, is a grayish color with a white belly. It has a thick-set head, a short, broad and blunt snout, small pig-like eyes and large, triangular, saw-edged upper teeth. It is considered potentially dangerous to humans although there have been no recorded attacks to date.

The fact that a Java Shark (Carcharhinus amboinensis) was spotted swimming near the Calabrian town of Crotone shows the Mediterranean is relatively clean and in good health, they say. The Java, which is also known in some parts as the pigeye shark, can be as much as three metres long. Such a large predator would not be wandering around the Mediterranean if there were not plenty of prey for it to feed on, the scientists say.

On the down side, the Java usually inhabits tropical waters off Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia. So the shark's visit demonstrates that global warming is heating up the Med, a process that is bound to affect the sea's ecological balance, with negative consequences for many species.

"In recent years an increasing number of tropical species have been coming into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea," Dr. Alessandro De Maddalena, the president of the Italian Ichthyological Society, told ANSA. "It is normal for the odd Whale Shark (the biggest shark, and the biggest fish) and Tiger Shark to come here occasionally, but this trend is a little strange. "We're pretty sure they don't breed here, so they are coming into the Mediterranean because it's warmer.

Italy's Central Institute for Scientific and Technological Research (ICRAM) said that it first observed this 'tropicalization' of the Mediterranean in 1995 and that the process is accelerating.