The world’s largest luminous shark is in New Zealand

A shark 1.80 meters long, that glows in the dark and inhabits the depths of the waters of New Zealand, It is the “largest luminous vertebrate in the world known to date,” according to a scientific study published Wednesday.

Research confirms for the first time that this stone shark (Dalatias licha), as well as two other species (Etmopterus lucifer y Etmopterus granulosus) that inhabit the depths of New Zealand waters, and that were already known, are capable of produce visible light through biochemical reactions.

Specimens of these three species were captured in January 2020 during an expedition of the Water and Atmosphere Research Institute (NIWA) of New Zealand over the waters that cover the ocean floor Chatham Rise, a vast area that extends over 1,000 kilometers to the east of the oceanic country.

Jérôme Mallefet, lead author of the study published in the scientific journal ‘Frontiers of Marine Sciences’ and who confirmed for the first time the existence of bioluminescent sharks in New Zealand, has explained that the captured specimens produce a blue-green light that slowly glows and darkens.

“They glow in the dark, they don’t sparkle,” explained the Belgian scientist, who had the rare opportunity to study these characteristics in freshly caught specimens, in a NIWA statement.

To hunt and breed

Sharks, like other bioluminescent creatures, produce light to hunt their prey, for reproduce or when in a group, as well as to camouflage themselves in bright environments in order to protect themselves from their predators, has added in Mallefet in the statement.

Mallefer calculates that 57 of the 540 known species of sharks they can produce bioluminescent light, most of them small in size that inhabit the so-called “twilight zone” of the sea, more than 200 meters deep.

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“The existence of luminous organisms in this area [donde fueron halladas las tres especies de tiburones] makes it increasingly obvious that producing light at depth has an important role in structuring the enormous ecosystem of our planet “, according to this first experimental study.

Mallefet’s investigation – together with his colleague Laurent Duchatelet, from the Catholic University of Leuven, and Darren Stevens, from NIWA – could help us better understand the animals of the deep sea.


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