Home News Science&Tech Meet the little ‘glow in the dark’ shark

Meet the little ‘glow in the dark’ shark

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They were actually looking for sperm whales. But suddenly, in the Gulf of Mexico, researchers came across a never-before-discovered ‘glow-in-the-dark’ shark. “This is really special.”

American researchers published their findings in the scientific journal Biotaxa last month. The ‘glow in the dark’ shark is only 14 centimeters in size and releases a luminous material from a ‘pocket’ at its ribs.

‘Special by-catch’

“This is a special by-catch,” says Sander van Dijk, shark expert and employed at the Pieterburen Seal Center. “Discovering a new shark species and being allowed to describe it is the best thing there is.”

The animal was dead when he was brought upstairs. “That sounds very pathetic, and it is also a shame, but that is a way to discover new species. They did the research to find out why sperm whales are diving down. They started looking for prey of the sperm whale and then came this animal against. ”

The magic glowing shark

Researchers could not determine why the ‘glow in the dark shark’ gives light. Some shark species do it to lure prey, others to scare off enemies, or to communicate with each other.

“That they give light is something magical,” says Van Dijk. “I am also a diver, and when I see luminous algae in the otherwise dark water, yes: that is really beautiful to see.”

It takes a long time

The shark was discovered in 2010, but it has only been published. “It takes a long time before you as a researcher can really say with certainty that it is a new species. You have to compare it with many other species, in detail.”

For example, another shark was discovered in 1979 that comes from the same family as this animal, but this new species differs on five points. For example, he has a different head and his body is built differently.

Rare or not?

The researchers state that the shark is very rare, but Van Dijk nuances that statement:

“It is very difficult to establish that. The ocean is so insanely large … They sometimes say that we know more about the surface of the moon from our own deep sea. “

You have to imagine, Van Dijk says: the deep sea is thousands of meters deep. “Or, well, you can’t really imagine that. But to spot sperm whales, or this new shark species, you have to go down with a big dive boat. You can’t go diving yourself: it is too deep for that.” Moreover, it is ‘pitch dark’.

Super small area

And if you go down with a submersible boat, you can only investigate a ‘stamp area’ of the deep sea. Van Dijk:

“That is why it is rare for humans to see this new shark species. But maybe they have a lot, but we just don’t know …”

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