Glow in the Dark Shark?!

Kitefin Shark

via FNRS

Kitefin Shark

Scientists have recently discovered a shark that can glow. These glowing sharks were found off the coast of New Zealand in the area of the ocean called Chatham Rise, and while it sounds like a city in a superhero movie, it is the home of the largest bioluminescent vertebrate in the world. Examining these glowing sharks has illuminated how and why bioluminescence occurs in animals. It also helped show why bioluminescence is a survival skill that helps many sea creatures survive.

The Kitefin shark is the largest bioluminescent vertebrate and can grow to a maximum of 6 feet long! Recently, aThe Dalatias Licha was found in Chatham Rise, a part of the ocean off the coast of New Zealand. While earlier specimens might have been capable of producing light, they were challenging to observe since they live 200 to 900 meters below the ocean’s surface.

These kitefin sharks are amazing, but many scientists asked why the Dalatias Licha glow. To answer this question, they did many tests on the kitefin shark. After several tests, where they were put into dark, cold rooms, the scientists figured out that there was an organ in their belly that would produce light so that predators would not see them blending into the blue light coming from above. Another interesting thing about the kite fish shark is that its light-producing organ is not controlled by its nervous system and instead is regulated by the hormone melatonin. When humans have melatonin in their bodies, it makes them tired, but for some reason, it is making this shark, well, glow in the dark.

The organ and the hormones that affect it are still being tested, with many scientists looking into how certain hormones affect the luminescent organ. Though melatonin triggers the shark’s ability, multiple hormones can turn it off. It is currently unclear how different hormones affect and control this creature’s organ.

The glowing shark is a fantastic discovery that figuratively shines some light (pun intended) on bioluminescence. Bioluminescence was seen in the kite fin earlier, but only recently were scientists able to test it. Bioluminescence is a chemical reaction that happens when luciferases and luciferins react. Though scientists have found the glowing kitefin shark, Dr. Mallefet acknowledges that there are probably more glowing creatures in the ocean, and he hopes to find them as well.