A newly discovered ninja lanternshark can light up the sea, its bioluminescent properties having been recently presented in the Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation.
The first sighting involving this shark took place in 2010, when a member of this species was retrieved from the Pacific Ocean, near the Central American coast, by a fishery research vessel called Miguel Olivier.
Ever since that first encounter, 7 other sharks of this kind have been spotted near Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. However, only recently has the species been properly analyzed and classified, an in-depth profile finally being published on December 21.
Scientists have called the miniature marine predator “Etmopterus benchleyi”, in a nod to Peter Benchley, who authored the bestselling novel Jaws, and also co-wrote its movie adaptation.
The common name for this species is the “ninja lanternshark”, the new type of fish actually joining other 37 similar species known as “lanternsharks” (Etmopterus), due to their bioluminescent abilities.
The “ninja” part of its name refers not just to its dark-hued skin, but also to the fact that unlike other lanternsharks this particular aquatic species doesn’t rely much on its ability to glow in the dark.
In fact, this shark has a smaller number of photophores, which are luminous glandular organs, appearing as neatly arranged skin spots.
Their role is to provide countershading and counter-illumination, two types of camouflage that allow certain sharks to emit enough light so as to match the background completely, leaving no shadows in the water as they swim through.
Lanternsharks are normally found in oceans such as the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific, but never before had such predator been encountered close to Central America.
The newly cataloged species has extremely diminutive proportions, usually being able to fit comfortably in a human’s hand, with the most sizable known specimen of this kind measuring just around 1.7 feet.
Even so, Victoria Elena Vasquez, graduate student at the Pacific Research Center, points out that despite the shark being so small, it’s actually among the larger species populating its remote habitat.
Researchers haven’t been able to discover a whole lot about this mysterious fish, given the fact that just 8 such sharks have been reported so far.
The elusive animals prefer to roam more shadowy portions of the ocean, at depths verging from 2,742 feet to 4,734 feet, which is why the possibility of them coming face to face with humans is virtually nil.
It’s unclear for now what ninja lanternsharks rely on as a source of food, although scientists speculate the predator might feed on crustaceans and tiny fish, just like other species of this kind.
Also, researchers are yet to determine how extensive the distribution of this shark truly is, or what might put its survival at risk.
Image Source: YouTube