Three Glow-in-the-Dark Sharks Found Off the Coast of New Zealand

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Belgian and New Zealand researchers have discovered three very interesting shark species off the coast of New Zealand. These three sharks glow-in-the-dark. This discovery includes the largest known luminescent vertebrate — the kitefin shark.

It is also known as the Dalatias licha which can grow up to five feet and nine inches long. This discovery was technically made back in January 2020, however, it was not released until Feb. 26, 2021, in Frontiers in Marine Science journal.

All three of these luminescent species live in what is referred to as the “twilight zone.” This area stretches out 3,200 feet below sea level — well below the reach of light.

Darren Stevens — a Niwa scientist — assisted the Belgian scientists Dr. Jerome Mallefet and Dr. Laurent Duchatelet. Together they studied the sharks in their natural habitat. They preferred to study the creatures’ alive instead of preserved.

The other two species of glow-in-the-dark sharks are the Etmopterus lucifer (Blakbelly laternshark) and Etmopterus granulosus (Southern laternshark). The three species were collected from the Chatham Rise which is off the east coast of the South Island.

SharkScientists used a hoki trawl to make this interesting discovery. They dragged the trawl 656.168 feet to almost 1,000 feet under the water. They pulled up a total of 662 sharks. The researchers only studied the 24 luminescent ones — 13 kitefin’s, seven blackbelly’s, and four southern.

They then placed them into fresh seawater tanks in a dark cold room. There they were able to photograph, weigh, measure, and sex the creatures. They then followed European regulations and made a full incision of the spinal cord at the first vertebrae.

Then they sent the collected samples back to the Belgium lab for further studying. After all of their data was collected they released the sharks back into their normal habitat.

Scientists are studying these animals to figure out what they use their bioluminescence for. Studies on other critters that use bioluminescence shows this feature can be used for:

  • Mating
  • Hunting prey
  • Counter-shading
  • And schooling.

When used for counter-shading it allows the creature to camouflage itself against the lighter surface of the water — when viewed from below. Many bioluminescent creatures call New Zealand home. Such as fungi, a giant glowing earthworm, and glow worms.

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