Over the past few decades, scientists have observed several deep-sea creatures that glow-in-the-dark. However, recently a team studying marine life have discovered the first "giant luminous shark".
Researchers discovered the amazing kitefin shark just off the eastern coast of New Zealand. They also uncovered a blackbelly lanternshark and a southern lanternshark, which also sport bioluminescence.
The kitefin shark is known to grow up to six feet long and is found 984 feet below sea level. All three of these unique sharks live in what is called the "twilight zone". The twilight zone stretches 3,200 feet below sea level, which means it's out of reach of any sunlight. Due to them living in a region without light, there is no place for the sharks to hide. However, scientists said the sharks make use of their glowing bodies to camouflage themselves.
The study, published in the Frontiers in Marine Science journal, was conducted by researchers from Belgium and New Zealand, who made the discoveries in January 2020.
The species were collected from the Chatham Rise, an area of ocean floor east of New Zealand.
Even though these species are known in the science community, this is the first time bioluminescence has been observed.
This phenomenon, known by scientists as "living light" or "cold light", happens when a chemical reaction is sparked in a fish that contains the molecule luciferin.
The researchers revealed in their study that; "Bioluminescence has often been seen as a spectacular yet uncommon event at sea. But, considering the vastness of the deep sea and the occurrence of luminous organisms in this zone, it is now more and more obvious that producing light at depth must play an important role in structuring the biggest ecosystem on our planet.
"This first experimental study of three luminous shark species from New Zealand provides an insight into the diversity of shark bioluminescence, and highlights the need for more research to help understand these unusual deep-sea inhabitants: the glowing sharks."
Researchers were indeed more fascinated by the kitefin shark, which is known as the largest vertebrate. The team focused their study on the kitefin to discover why this species would have illuminating abilities. Upon making their discovery, the team found that even though the kitefin has few predators, it has one of the slowest cruising speeds measure in sharks.
An analysis of a specimens stomach contents revealed that the shark mostly fed on smaller, faster swimming lantern sharks. The team hypothesize that the kitefin uses its bioluminescence to light up the ocean floor. This helps them search for and hunt prey, along with allowing it to attack in stealth mode.
It's incredible to think how much humanity still has to discover in the vast oceans of the world. Glow in the dark sharks... sounds like the plot of a bad B-grade movie!