Scientists have discovered a tiny new Hawaiian shark that glows in the dark
A shark first found 17 years ago and thought to be a blackbelly lanternshark has turned out to be something very different. Several specimens previously identified as Etmopterus lucifer looked a little different to others, with an odd head shape and bulging snout. They also had markings along their bellies and fewer teeth than other sharks.
Scientists submitted research on these specimens, only for someone reviewing the work to suggest that they were in fact a species unknown to science, now called Etmopterus lailae . They turned out to have a different internal structure, including a different number of vertebrae in their spines, as well as a unique patch underneath their snouts with no scales. There are around 450 known species of shark, and it’s rare for a new one to be discovered.
Not even reaching 30 centimetres (a foot) long and weighing in at less than 900 grams (two pounds), E. lailae is still quite large compared to its close relatives. Like other lanternsharks, the new species is bioluminescent, with its flanks and markings on its snout glowing in the dark. It’s not known why this family lights itself up, but it could be for camouflage, to lure in prey or to identify members of the same species for mating.
E. lailae’s huge snout can be explained by the fact that it lives at depths of 300 metres (1000 feet) in the Pacific Ocean. Here there’s very limited light, so a good sense of smell helps the shark to locate food. It’s because of this depth and its small size that the shark hasn’t yet been identified in the wild.
(Photo: Florida Atlantic University. Video: GeoBeats News)