Perhaps you didn’t know, but sharks have swum in the world’s oceans for about 450 million years. These long-bodied fish with sharp teeth and a pointed fin on their backs have outlived dinosaurs and are one of Earth’s most ancient creatures with fossil records dating back to 450 million years ago. There are more than 500 species of sharks swimming in the deep blue sea, with new species being discovered every year. Recently, scientists have identified a new rare species of shark, which they’ve named the American Pocket Shark or Mollisquama mississippiensis.
This first-of-its-kind minuscule shark is less scary than it is wondrous, scientists said. It has a mysterious tiny pocket gland near its front fins. What amazed scientists was the fact that its pocket secretes glowing clouds, or bioluminescent fluid—one of nature’s most fascinating phenomena!
It's not exactly #Jaws, but #Tulane is hosting a unique guest—a small and very rare species of shark, nicknamed the…
The 5-and-a-half-inch (142-millimeter) rare baby male kitefin shark that glows in the dark was stumbled across by scientists in 2010 while they were surveying sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico.
But scientists only started observing it three years later in 2013 after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researcher Mark Grace chanced upon it in a pool of less luminous specimens, CNN reported.
“I’ve been in science about 40 years. … I can usually make a pretty good guess,” Grace, who is based in Pascagoula, Mississippi, told the Associated Press. “I couldn’t with this one.”
Grace called scientists at Tulane University to help identify the newborn shark. Since then, he has collaborated with scientists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History in the study of this shark species.
The American Pocket Shark is the third shark species that may squirt luminous liquid, said R. Dean Grubbs, a Florida State University scientist, who was not involved in the research of this newly discovered minuscule shark. The two other shark species that have the ability to create light are known as the pocket shark (Mollisquama parini) and the taillight shark.
“You have this tiny little bulbous luminescent shark cruising around in the world’s oceans and we know nothing about them,” said Grubbs. “It shows us how little we actually know.”
In comparison with the 6-inch (400-millimeter) adult female pocket shark (Mollisquama parini) found in 1979 in the east Pacific Ocean, off Peru, currently housed at the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Grace said: “Both species are different species, each from different oceans. Both are extremely rare.”
There are some differences in the teeth between this newly discovered American Pocket Shark (Mollisquama mississippiensis) and the pocket shark (Mollisquama parini) uncovered in 1979. Also, the former may have at least 10 fewer vertebrae than the latter.
Grace and his collaborators took years to examine the American Pocket Shark, including high-resolution scans in the particle accelerator in Grenoble, France, and a cellular dissection of a part of the pocket tissue by European expert Julien Claes. Their findings are recorded in the journal “Zootaxa.”
The scientists came to the conclusion that the American Pocket Shark’s muscular glands are lined with pigment-covered fluorescent projections. In addition, it has a mass of light-emitting cells nestled around its belly. And it likely has a pressure-sensitive organ to detect motions hundreds of feet away.
The tiny shark’s ability to squirt glowing fluid into the waters may aid in attracting prey or concealing itself from predators.
According to NOAA, 90 percent of animals living in the pelagic zone—the water column of the open ocean—are bioluminescent. However, not much is known on bioluminescence in deep-sea creatures. It’s simply wondrous how nature works!
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