Researchers discovered three glow-in-the-dark sharks off the coast of New Zealand in January 2020, including the kitefin shark which is now the largest-known luminous vertebrae, according to a study published Feb. 26 in the Frontiers in Marine Science Journal and noted by The Guardian on Tuesday.
They documented the luminescence of the kitefin shark, the blackbelly lanternshark and the southern lanternshark in Chatham Rise, an area of ocean floor east of New Zealand. (RELATED: Experts Believe Global Shark Population Has Collapsed 71% In 50 Years)
“This first experimental study of three luminous shark species from New Zealand provides an insight into the diversity of shark bioluminescence and highlights the need for more research to help understand these unusual deep-sea inhabitants: the glowing sharks,” the study stated. The study defines bioluminescence as the production of visible light by living organisms.
Researchers stated in the study they believe the slow-moving kitefin shark, among the discovered species, uses its bioluminescence to “counterilluminate,” or camouflage itself from predators.
“Bioluminescence has often been seen as a spectacular yet uncommon event at sea but considering the vastness of the deep sea and the occurrence of luminous organisms in this zone, it is now more and more obvious that producing light at depth must play an important role structuring the biggest ecosystem on our planet,” according to the study.