By Tim Binnall
Scientists have identified a new species of pocket shark that can glow-in-the-dark and emit luminous fluid from its body. The unique creature has a rather interesting backstory in that it was first captured in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, but only caught the attention of researchers a few years later when they spotted the weird find among a slew of other marine animals harvested in a NOAA study on sperm whales. It was subsequently studied by scientists who determined that they had a rather precious discovery on their hands.
"In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported," marveled NOAA's Mark Grace in a press release detailing a newly published paper about the creature. In a testament to just how elusive these marine animals are, the only other pocket shark ever found until now was caught 40 years ago in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile. And, when examined by experts, it was determined that the 2010 pocket shark was an entirely different species, making it truly a one-of-a-kind creature.
Beyond the incredible rarity of the creature, the newfound pocket shark boasts some amazing characteristics that make one wish that they were less elusive. According to scientists, the five-and-a-half inch long animal boasts glow-in-the-dark glandular organs that "cover much of the body." The creature can also emit a cloud of "luminous fluid" by way of a pair of pockets near its gills. These features, rather than the animal's diminutive size, are what led to the name 'pocket shark' being bestowed upon the rarely found ocean dweller.
A scientist from Tulane University's Biodiversity Research department, Henry Bart, who worked on the study suggested that the find might just be the first of many astounding creatures that could be lurking in the same general area where the wondrous aquatic animal was captured. "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," he said, "especially its deeper waters, and how many additional new species from these waters await discovery."