(TMU) — If you fear swimming in the ocean due to what might be lurking beneath the surface, here’s one tiny predator you never have to worry about. The small shark was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico and glows in the dark.
WSBTV reports that the “American pocket shark,” or Mollisquama mississippiensis, is 5.5-inches long and is the first of its kind found in the Gulf. It secretes luminous fluid from two small pockets on each side of its gills, causing a glowing effect. According to a new study from scientists at Tulane University, the effect is likely to attract pray and/or to cancel itself to make hunting easier.
The only other specimen of its kind was found in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 1979, said the researchers. Notable differences were recorded between the sharks, however, such as fewer vertebrae and numerous light-producing photophores.
Meet the American pocket shark, Mollisquama mississippiensis: A wee little shark found in the Gulf of Mexico that squirts little glowing clouds from mysterious pouches near its front fins. Amazing. https://t.co/jVPWNiWU8G pic.twitter.com/kzdRumXHIo
— Shark Advocates (@SharkAdvocates) July 21, 2019
“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,” explained Tulane Biodiversity Research Institute Director Henry Bart in a statement.
Though the kitefin shark was caught in February 2010, only recently has it made headlines. The species was scooped up during a study of sperm whales in the gulf of Mexico and was later described in the animal taxonomy journal Zootaxa.
Said Mark Grace, study author:
“In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported. Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare.”