WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A team of researchers has discovered a new species of shark in the Gulf of Mexico — and they glow in the dark.
- The Tulane University said that the marine animal is only the second pocket shark ever captured as the first pocket shark was captured in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 1979.
- The pocket shark has fewer vertebrae, “numerous light-producing photophores” covering its body, and two “small pockets” that secrete a glowing fluid, which could help the shark attract prey.
Researchers have discovered a new species of shark in the Gulf of Mexico — and they glow in the dark.
Tulane University researchers and scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found a new species of shark, an American pocket shark, according to a study published in the Zootaxa journal. The very small shark — the first of its species to be discovered— only measures five and a half inches long.
In a press release, the Tulane University said that the marine animal is only the second pocket shark ever captured or reported. The first pocket shark was captured in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 1979 and is now kept in a museum in Russia.
Scientists believed this tiny shark was a different species than the animal captured in 1979 because it had multiple features not seen in the first pocket shark.
According to the press release, the American pocket shark has fewer vertebrae and “numerous light-producing photophores” covering its body. Both species have two “small pockets” that secrete a glowing fluid, which could help the shark attract prey.
“In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported,” Mark Grace, one of the co-authors of the study, said. “Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare.”
The pocket shark found in the Gulf of Mexico was first caught in 2010. Three years later, Grace came across it while examining specimens collected during an NOAA survey. Grace and the other team of researchers then spent years identifying the shark using CT scans, x-rays and a dissecting microscope.
Henry Bart, the shark study’s co-author, added: “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.”