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Scientists have discovered a ‘giant luminous shark’ off New Zealand coast

Scientists were studying sharks off New Zealand and ended up discovering three deep-sea species that glow in the dark, one in particular, which is now the largest-known luminous vertebrate.

The scientists observed the three different sharks glowing deep beneath the waves. They were the blackbelly lanternshark, the southern lanternshark and the kitefin shark. All three species were found to have glowing underbellies, and all of them living at the part of the ocean where there is no signs of sunlight.

Bioluminescence is the production of visible light through a chemical reaction by living organisms and is a widespread phenomenon among marine life. This is the first time however, it has been documented and analysed in the kitefin shark, the blackbelly lanternshark and the southern lanternshark.

“The luminous pattern of the Kitefin shark was unknown and we are still very surprised by the glow on the dorsal fin,” said Jérôme Mallefet, lead researcher from the Marine Biology Laboratory of the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. “Why? For which purpose?”

The scientists said that the kitefin shark, which has little to no predators, might use its natural glow to illuminate the ocean floor while it searches for food, or to disguise itself in approaching its prey.

That hypothesis still must be confirmed, but it is a good start into figuring out this strange phenomenon.

Image source: Dr. J. Mallefet — FNRS, UCLouvain

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