New "Pocket Shark" That Glows In The Dark Discovered In The Gulf Of Mexico

New "Pocket Shark" That Glows In The Dark Discovered In The Gulf Of Mexico

It's only the second pocket shark ever found, with the first one being captured in 1979 and being housed in a Russian museum.

A new shark that glows in the dark, to attract its prey, has been found in the Gulf of Mexico and scientists say it’s the first of its kind. Unlike big fish we associate with the sharks, this new species is just 5 ½ inch long and has been called the “American pocket shark”, as per a report by CNN. The kitefin shark secretes a bioluminescent fluid that helps it glow in the dark and thus attracting unsuspecting prey, according to a Tulane University study.



It’s only the second pocket shark ever captured or recorded with the previous capture found in 1979. The shark captured in 1979 is now in the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. "Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare," said Mark Grace, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researcher.



Grace has more than three years of experience in identifying collected specimen but this little shark had him baffled. "I’ve been in science about 40 years. I can usually make a pretty good guess about a marine animal’s identity. But I couldn’t with this one," said Grace to Myarklamiss.



After collaborating with scientists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, they determined that it was similar to the one captured in 1979. Julien Claes, a European expert who performed the cellular dissection confirmed the same to Grace. "He said, ‘Yes, these are the kind of cells that produce luminous fluid. So it’s pretty safe to say that’s what the one in Russia does,'" said Grace.



The study claimed that the shark secreted glowing fluid from a tiny pocket gland near its fin. “You have this tiny little bulbous luminescent shark cruising around in the world’s oceans and we know nothing about them,” said Grubbs, R. Dean Grubbs, a Florida State University scientist who wasn’t involved in the research.



The pocket shark was collected in 2010 from the Gulf of Mexico by the NOAA ship Pisces, during a mission to study sperm whale feeding. The shark was ignored for a long period and Grace discovered the shark only in 2013 while examining the specimens caught during the NOOA survey. Then along with a postdoctoral researcher, Doosey, they began the process to determine the species.

They found that the pocket shark was starkly different from the original captured in 1979. Both had a different number of vertebrae, different teeth, and the most recent capture has light-producing photophores that cover much of the body. 



It is not uncommon for sea creatures to glow in the dark with NOAA claiming that over 90 percent of creatures that live in the open water are bioluminescent. Different sea creatures use their glow for different purposes ranging from attracting a mate to warning a predator or luring in its prey.



"The fact that only one pocket shark has ever been reported from the Gulf of Mexico, and that it is a new species, underscores how little we know about the Gulf — especially its deeper waters — and how many additional new species from these waters await discovery," said Henry Bart, director of the Tulane Biodiversity Research Institute.

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