Jaws and its pals just upped the ante. Scientists recently snapped images of three species of shark living in the Pacific Ocean off of New Zealand that glow in the dark. The species aren’t new, but this is the first time their luminescence has been photographed, according to a study published in Frontiers in Marine Science.
Scientists from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand focused on the kitefin shark, the blackbelly lanternshark and the southern lanternshark. The kitefin shark is now known to be the largest known luminous vertebrate, and can grow to a length of almost 6 feet (180 centimeters) long. It mostly eats other sharks, including its fellow study topic, lanternsharks.
The three shark species are bioluminescent, meaning they produce their own light. And they need it — they live in the ocean’s “twilight zone,” 656 to 3,280 feet (200 to 1,000 meters) below the surface.
It’s also useful to help them hide from predators, the study said. While that might seem illogical — wouldn’t light make them more visible to enemies? — study co-author Jérôme Mallefet told CNN the sharks’ glow plays against the faint glow from the ocean’s surface and helps camouflage them.
While other marine animals can produce their own light, this is the first time the trait has been found in larger sharks.