Scientists have discovered one of the world’s first giant glow-in-the-dark sharks known as the Kitefin shark spotted in an area of the ocean known as the Chatham Rise, off the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island on February 26, 2020.
The accidental discovery was made when Jérôme Mallefet, head of the UCLouvain marine biology laboratory in Belguim noticed that the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) traveling surveys showed sharks had been caught. As stated by CNN, “The sharks had been caught accidentally during NIWA’s trawling surveys, which are used to measure fish stocks, and contacted the organization.”
The Kitefin shark is typically found in an area in the ocean called “the twilight zone”, which stretches 3200 feet below sea level and out of reach to light. Despite this, Kitefin sharks are capable of surviving up to 984 feet below sea level, where there is almost non-visible light. Msn.com reported that this is because Kitefin sharks can use their bodies ’ glow in the dark water to provide light by which to see.
Their capability of glowing underwater is explained by a chemical known as bioluminescence. As Jérôme Mallefe defined in CNN, “Bioluminescence refers to the production of visible light by living organisms through a biochemical reaction.” Scientists suggest that the Kitefin shark use their glowing bodies as camouflage so as to appear backlit against the bright surface of the water, maintained NBC news. Their assumption is supported by the fact that there are no places for the shark to hide in an area without light.
The Kitegin shark usually preys on fish, sharks, and rays, but their prey also ranged from cephalopods, crustaceans, polychaete worms, to siphonophores. However, these glow-in-the-dark sharks are not a threat to humans because they live too deep in the ocean to be in contact with us.