NEW ZEALAND一 Sharks are cool, but sharks that glow in the dark are way cooler. Researchers in New Zealand have pulled up three different species of bioluminescent sharks from the Chatham Rise, an eastward extension of the New Zealand continental shelf which is completely submerged underwater.
This is the first physical documentation of the shark’s luminescence, including the largest recorded luminescent vertebrae the kitefin shark which can reach up to six-feet, and two species of lantern sharks.
The study revealed that luminous sharks produce a blue-green light that is used as a signal to warn off predators, recognize other members of the species, and creates a counter to the light coming in that allows the animal to camouflage themselves.
The glow-in-the-dark effect is from photophores, light-producing organs, embedded in the shark’s skin, and the study showed that the light is controlled through hormones.
The research was published in an article on Frontiers in Marine Science as a part of an overarching research topic under Bioluminescence from Land to the Oceans: Its Role in Evolution, Communication, and Ecology.
The article titled, Bioluminescence of the Largest Luminous Vertebrate the Kitefin Shark, Daltatias licha: First Insights and Comparative Aspects was published on Feb. 26 by Jérôme Mallefet and Laurent Duchatelet, from the Marine Biology Laboratory, Earth and Life Institue, at the Université catholique de Louvain and Darren W. Stevens from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington New Zealand.
The study states that the mention of bioluminescent sharks dates back to the 1800s but studies about the phenomenon are still relatively new with the lead researcher Mallefet leading the charge.
“Bioluminescence has often been seen as a spectacular yet uncommon event at sea but considering the vastness of the deep sea and the occurrence of luminous organisms in this zone, it is now more and more obvious that producing light at depth must play an important role structuring the biggest ecosystem on our planet.” said the Feb. 26 article.