Glow-in-the-dark sharks are real, and they’re swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.
Scientists have discovered a new, tiny species of self-illuminating sharks, according to a new Tulane University study.
The tiny creature is covered in light-producing glands, and even has a small pouch that squirts out clouds of glowing liquid. Scientists believe the sharks use light to attract prey, which are often drawn to the glow when swimming in deep, dark waters.
Scientists have discovered only one other pocket shark before, and it was a totally different species. The other shark was discovered in the Pacific Ocean, all the way back in 1979.
“In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researcher Mark Grace said in a statement. “Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare.”
Many sea creatures can glow in the dark — more than 90 percent of animals living in open water can produce light, according to the NOAA —but for sharks, it’s an incredibly rare trait. There are more than 500 known species of sharks on the planet, only three of which are luminescent.
Tulane researcher Henry Bart noted that the discovery highlights just how in the dark scientists are when it comes to exploring the world’s oceans.
“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,” Bart said.