Glow in the Shark! Amazing luminescent creatures discovered

Last updated at 09:26
Lateral and dorsal luminescent pattern of Dalatias licha (kitefin shark)Mallefet, Stevens and Duchatelet

Scientists have discovered that three deepwater shark species can glow in the dark!

The bioluminescent creatures were found living in the remote waters of the Chatham Islands, to the east of New Zealand.

The kitefin, blackbelly lanternshark and southern lanternshark were already known to marine biologists, but this is the first time they have been seen producing their own light.

Experts think the sharks might have developed luminescent bellies as a form of camouflage.

These creatures live in a space known as the 'mesopelagic zone', often called the twilight zone, which ranges from 200m to 1,000m deep.

It is an environment with no place to hide and where camouflage is key.

The research was carried out by scientists from the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand, and was published in Frontiers in Marine Science.

Speaking about luminescence, the scientists said: "It 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".

What is bioluminescence?

It is thought the sharks' glow is achieved through thousands of photophores (light-producing cells) located within their skin.

Bioluminescence is a phenomena seen when living things make and give off their own light.

Lots of sea creatures, bacteria, fungi and some insects, like fireflies, use it.

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Bioluminescent algae in Jervis Bay, Australia, glows in a captivating night time display

The light is formed from a chemical reaction in an organism's body.

The glow is used for different reasons, including communicating with each other, finding prey, hiding from or warning off predators and attracting a mate.

As much as 76 percent of ocean animals are bioluminescent, producing their own light through a series of chemical reactions or containing bacteria give off light.

What other creatures are bioluminescent?
Sea Fire fliesGetty Images
Sea fireflies in Japan - they are actually thousands of tiny glowing shrimp that live in shallow water
Comb jelly swimming in Bali in IndonesiaGetty Images
Comb jellyfish llight up the dark waters of the ocean near Bali in Indonesia
Mushroom found in BorneoGetty Images
These funky fluorescent green mushroom can be found in Borneo
PlanktonGetty Images
This beautiful sight is caused by millions of tiny bioluminescent plankton in the water in this mangrove forest in Thailand
Firefly glowing on a plantGetty Images
Fireflies can turn their light on or off and use the sequence of flashes to communicate with each other

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