World’s largest glow-in-the-dark shark discovered in New Zealand waters

Sydney, Australia, Mar 3 (efe-epa).- Scientists have discovered three glow-in-the-dark shark species in the waters of New Zealand, including the world’s largest known luminescent vertebrate.

A study led by a Belgian scientist found three species of deepsea sharks, including the kitefin shark, which can grow up to 1.8 meters long, as well as the lucifer dogfish and southern lantern shark, according to a scientific study published Wednesday.

Specimens of these three species were captured in January 2020 during an expedition of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to the Chatham Rise, a vast area that extends along 1,000 kilometers east of the country.

Jérôme Mallefet, lead author of the study published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Marine Sciences and who first confirmed the existence of bioluminescent sharks in New Zealand, said that the captured specimens produce a blue-green light that slowly brightens and darkens.

“They are glowing in the dark, they are not producing flashes,” the Belgian scientist, who had the rare opportunity to study these characteristics in freshly caught specimens, said in a NIWA statement.

Sharks, like other bioluminescent creatures, produce light to hunt their prey, to reproduce or when in groups, as well as to camouflage themselves to avoid predators, the statement added.

Mallefet estimates that 57 of the 540 known species of sharks can produce bioluminescent light, most of them small in size that inhabit the so-called “twilight zone” of the sea, in darkness more than 200 meters deep.

The deep sea is the “biggest ecosystem on our planet,” he said, adding that it is now clear that bioluminescence plays a key role in structuring life in that environment.

Mallefet took skin samples to send back to his lab, and believes that there may be many more glow-in-the-dark sharks in New Zealand waters.

His research – along with that of his colleague Laurent Duchatelet of the Catholic University of Leuven and Darren Stevens of NIWA – could help us better understand the animals of the deep sea. EFE-EPA


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