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A new so-called ninja shark species that lives in the deep sea uses its glowing head to light up its surroundings, a new report finds.
Vicky Vásquez, a graduate student in marine science at the Pacific Shark Research Center in California and lead author of the new report, said that there are about forty species of sharks that have the ability to glow in the dark, commonly referred to as lantern sharks. They live in oceans all across the globe, including the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans, Vásquez added.
Eight lanternshark species were spotted in 2010, at depths between 0.5 and 0.9 miles (approximately 0.8 to 1.4 km) below the surface.
In the new report – published December 21 in the Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation – the researchers analysed the species found in 2010. The end-results showed that the sharks were indeed part of a new lanternshark species. According to Vásquez the sharks had dark-black colouring. Lanternsharks usually have grey and brown colours.
The distribution of photophores – tiny light-emitting organs which make it possible for lanternshark to glow – was also different in the new species. The new sharks had fewer photophores than other species of lanternshark.
Most of the photophores were located on their heads, compared with other glowing sharks that have their bellies covered in photophores. Because it has fewer photophores, the new shark species probably does not glow as bright as its relatives, according to Vásquez.
Researchers named the new shark species Etmopterus benchleyi, after the author of the book “Jaws” Peter Benchley, who also worked as a shark advocate.
To come up with a more common and easy to pronounce name, Vásquez asked her high school student and four young cousins to come up with ideas. That is how the name ‘ninja lanternshark’ came about.
According to Vásquez, when people typically think of sharks they think of 16-foot long (almost five metres) great white sharks, rather than smaller sharks that reach up to 1.7 feet (about half a metre). The ninja shark just goes to show that these animals come in a variety of sizes and that not all of them are apex predators.
David Gruber, an associate professor of biology at Baruch College in New York City, described the ninja lanternshark as elegant and cool. The small glowing sharks are able to redefine people’s concept of sharks (massive and dangerous animals), and to make people see some of them in a different light: as beautiful and harmless marine creatures.
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