Glow in the dark sharks: new species discovered in Hawaii – and it glows

This fish that is glowing in the dark may seem like a result of some chemical spill or lab experiment, but actually, there is a very simple scientific explanation why these kinds of fish that were recently discovered in the Pacific Ocean are glowing.

Lanternsharks (Etmopteridae) are one of two deep-sea shark families that are having the ability to bioluminesce – which practically means they can glow in the dark.

What is bioluminescence and what use is it?

The emission of light that appears as a result of a biochemical reaction is called Bioluminescence. This kind of reaction doesn’t require the initial absorption of sunlight or some other electromagnetic radiation coming by a molecule or a pigment in order to emit light.

This phenomenon appears to be documented in over 700 genera of animals, and of course – with the vast majority living in the ocean.

Most fish are able to bioluminesce just by using their light organs (commonly known as photophores) in one of two ways: they are harnessing the light that is being produced by a symbiotic bacteria or they are even able to produce their own light through chemical reactions. Still, shark luminescence is actually working in a different way.

The Velvet Belly Lantern Shark

The velvet belly lantern shark (that you can see in the picture above) was being used as a model for experiments on shark luminescence. So, this fish is able to emit visible light from hundreds of small photogenic organs – that are made of a cluster of photogenic cells that are known as photocytes.

In order to be ecologically successful, the bioluminescence actually needs to be properly controlled. By using the velvet belly lanternshark as a model (once again) scientists realized that shark photophores are being controlled by two different substances: neurotransmitters and hormones

“The research team’s discovery of a new shark species is evidence of how much is still undiscovered in our world,” said Ata Sarajedini, Ph.D., dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “This new species is the tip of the iceberg for what else might be out there and the great potential for all of the yet-to-be undescribed species that still need to be explored.”

The light from these glowing animals is traveling in the depths of the water in order to help to attract a partner, attract prey or just to confuse potential attackers.



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