Scientists Have Discovered A New Species Of Tiny Glow In The Dark Sharks

by : Lucy Connolly on : 22 Jul 2019 10:38
glow in the dark sharkglow in the dark sharkMark Doosey/Tulane University

Regardless of how scary you think sharks are, it’s hard to deny a tiny glow in the dark version of the creature would be a sight to behold.


Forget running/swimming away from it in pure terror, I’m pretty sure we’d all be swimming closer towards it to get a better look at its new and improved features.

Which is probably exactly what the American Pocket Shark wants you to do; by emitting an unusual glow, the 5 1/2 inch shark draws prey towards them to save them the hard work of stalking them out beforehand.

Pocket sharkPocket sharkPublic Domain

The American Pocket Shark (Mollisquama mississippiensis) is an entirely new species of pocket shark, and was recently identified in an article published in the Zootaxa journal by a team of researchers from Tulane University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


The researchers carried out a careful study of one of the creatures over the past few years, after discovering the shark in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 while studying sperm whales in the Gulf. The shark is the first of its kind to be discovered in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is only one more known specimen of this kind, the second one being found in 1979 in the east Pacific Ocean. However, both have entirely different features, scientists say.

NOAA researcher Mark Grace, an author of the study, explained:

In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported. Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare.

Scientists Have Discovered A New Species Of Tiny Glow In The Dark SharksScientists Have Discovered A New Species Of Tiny Glow In The Dark SharksMark Doosey/Tulane University

Researchers said there were notable differences between the original Pacific Ocean specimen and the newer specimen from the Gulf of Mexico, including fewer vertebrae and numerous light-producing photophores that cover the body.

Henry Bart, director of the Tulane Biodiversity Research Institute, said in a statement:

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.


Both species have two small pockets which produce luminous fluid; according to the paper, the American Pocket Shark secretes a glowing fluid from a tiny pocket gland near its front fins. This is thought to help attract prey, who are drawn to the glow while the predator attacks.

Waves in the oceanWaves in the oceanPixabay

Additionally, predatory behaviour is made easier by counter-illumination on the surface of the body, which renders the animal practically invisible from below.

I’m sorry, I just can’t think of glow in the dark sharks as predators when they’re that adorable and tiny. Perhaps I should avoid the Gulf of Mexico for the time being…

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, gulf of mexico, Science, Sharks


Zootaxa Journal and 1 other
  1. Zootaxa Journal

    A new Western North Atlantic Ocean kitefin shark (Squaliformes: Dalatiidae) from the Gulf of Mexico

  2. Tulane University

    Researchers identify new species of pocket shark