Massive 'Luminous' Sharks That Glow in Dark Found in New Zealand

·2 min read

The vast and unexplored wonders of the deep sea always amaze us with new species’ discoveries from time-to-time. In one such new discovery that fits the bill, scientists in New Zealand have discovered three giant luminous shark species that glow in the dark and one of them is the largest-known luminous vertebrate.

According to a Frontiers in Marine Science report, the study explains how the kitefin shark, the black belly lantern shark, and the southern lantern shark were found during a survey off the Chatham Rise off the east coast of New Zealand in January this year. Amid the three glowing sharks, the kitefin shark, which can grow up to 180 cm (almost 6 feet) in length, has been labeled as the ‘giant luminous shark’ by a team led by marine researchers from Belgium and New Zealand.

The marine researchers from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand said that their findings had ‘repercussions’ on our understanding of life in the deep sea, as it is one of the least-studied ecosystems on the planet.

The shark’s ability to glow in the dark is due to a process known as bioluminescence. Even though it is a widespread phenomenon among marine life, it is the first time that such a feature has been documented in sharks.

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Their study, which was published by the Frontiers in Marine Science journal, reported the three new shark species all live in what is often called the ocean’s mesopelagic or ‘twilight zone’ region, which is between 200 and 1,000 meters (approx. 3,200 feet) below sea level. It is clearly beyond sunlight’s penetration or is too weak to commence photosynthesis. However, if seen from below, these sharks appear backlit against the bright upper surface of the water. On the other hand, the researchers suggest these three glowing shark species’ underbellies may help camouflage and shield them from any threats that might strike from beneath.

The research paper also stated further research is required to uncover and understand the species’ bioluminescence functions and their possible implications on prey-predation relationships.