Have you seen the first ever picture of a glow-in-the-dark shark?3 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
In an ever increasing list of nature’s newest wonders, scientists have managed to take the first ever image of a glow-in-the-dark shark, Dalatias licha, also called the kitefin shark.
The image was taken in an area of ocean known as Chatham Rise, off the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
How is the shark glowing?
Have you ever noticed fireflies— how they have a happy little light coming out of them?
Something similar is happening with these sharks.
It is because of a phenomenon called bioluminescence.
Bioluminescence is the production of visible light caused by living organisms through a biochemical reaction. It occurs because of the presence of a light emitting enzyme. It works as a camouflage (by copying the light around), and as a recognition call to its species.
57 out of 540 known shark species are capable of this!
The kitefin shark is the largest bioluminescent shark in the world, growing up to six feet in length!
Scientists had always believed that the sharks could glow but until recently had no proof backing this idea. After all, it is hard to get a picture of an elusive carnivorous shark that swims 200-900 meters below the surface of the ocean.
So, how did this image come about?
This discovery was an accidental one!
The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research was conducting a survey to measure fish stocks when they stumbled upon this phenomenon.
The NIWA along with the marine biology lab at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, conducted a joint survey to find the shark, that lasted 30 days.
Jérôme Mallefet, the head of the marine biology lab at the UCLouvain took the image of the kitefin shark in a bucket in a dark room on the ship.
He likened his excitement to that of a kid at the bottom of a Christmas tree!
Why does the shark glow?
The shark glows to ware off predators, and to attract prey.
The deep sea (about 656 feet deep) is described as the twilight zone. It is believed to be completely dark but some predators may find some light that is useful to identify prey. The kitefin sharks use light to disappear— the bioluminescent renders the sharks invisible against the ocean’s faint glow. This protects them from predators swimming below them, while also helping them attract their own prey.
Scientists are now trying to unravel more mysteries about the shark like why only the dorsal fin glows.
Owliver will keep you posted!
Sourced from CNN