Yikes! Sharks That Glow in the Dark

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Photos of the kitefin shark glowing in the dark. (J Mallefet / UC Louvain / FNRS)

Nearly Six-Foot-Long Glowing Shark Discovered in Deep Sea Off New Zealand

by Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com

Scientists have discovered three species of glowing sharks in the deep ocean near New Zealand, reports Elle Hunt for the Guardian. One of the species, the kitefin shark, can reach lengths of nearly six feet and researchers say its cool blue glow makes it the largest known species of luminous vertebrate on Earth.

The three bioluminescent sharks—the kitefin shark, the blackbelly lanternshark and the southern lanternshark—were hauled up from the deep during fish surveys of an ocean bottom feature called the Chatham Rise off the east coast of New Zealand in January 2020. All three sharks inhabit the ocean’s mesopelagic or “twilight” zone, which spans depths of 660 to 3,300 feet below the surface.

Bioluminescence is relatively common in the deep sea among fish and squids, but its presence has been murkier and less well-studied among sharks, reports Elizabeth Claire Alberts for Mongabay. A study detailing the discovery, published last month in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, confirms the three sharks’ bioluminescence but suggests their biochemical mechanism for producing light may be different from most sea creatures, per Mongabay.

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