Some sharks snare their prey with the power of huge gaping jaws.
Scientists have now found one that emits an eerie glow that they believe brings prey to its doorstep.
But before anyone has visions of a glowing great white shark prowling the ocean looking for dangling legs, it should be noted that the newly discovered shark is only 5 and one-half inches long.
The find was announced by Tulane University in a statement on its website.
“The 5½-inch male kitefin shark has been identified as the American Pocket Shark, or Mollisquama mississippiensis, based on five features not seen in the only other known specimen of this kind,” the university said. “That specimen was captured in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 1979 and is now housed at the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.”
“The fact that only one pocket shark has ever been reported from the Gulf of Mexico, and that it is a new species, underscores how little we know about the Gulf, especially its deeper waters — and how many additional new species from these waters await discovery,” said Henry Bart, director of the Tulane Biodiversity Research Institute.
“In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported,” said researcher Mark Grace, a biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare.”
The pocket shark was found in February 2010 in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Grace was examining specimens collected in the survey in 2013 when he realized the specimen was unusual and began the research into determining what it was.Identification of the specimen was a high-tech adventure.
“Identifying the shark involved examining and photographing external features of the specimen with a dissecting microscope, studying radiographic (X-ray) images and high resolution CT scans,” the statement said, including use a machine that could produce “X-rays 100 billion times brighter than the X-rays used in hospitals.”
The newly discovered shark secretes a glowing fluid from a gland near its front fins. The glow attracts prey, which do not see the predator behind the light.
NOAA estimates about 90 percent of animals that live in open water are bioluminescent, CNN reported.
The website Scinews said the first pocket shark found was discovered at a depth of 1,083 feet.