#SharkWeek: The Ninja Lanternshark and What Little We Know About it

#SharkWeek: The Ninja Lanternshark and What Little We Know About it

Two years ago now, a new shark was discovered about a thousand feet below the sea off the coast of Central America.  Truly, that’s a bit of an over-simplification.  This shark was first found, really, back in 2010 — but ‘discovering’ something isn’t as easy as looking at a species and saying: “I don’t recognize this — it must be undiscovered!”  These things take sometime, and the discovery of the elusive Ninja Laternshark took about five years.

 

Ninja Laternshark
Victoria Elena Vasquez

Scientist Vicki Vásquez was the one who officially identified and named the shark.  Its scientific name is Etmopterus benchleyi, and because it’s so new, there’s not much we know about the shark at all.  Its identification was described from only eight specimens of the fish.  We don’t know its conservation status.

 

Here’s what we do know about this cool shark:

 

1) It glows in the dark.  No, really. It really does. And it’s not the only fish that does this — in fact, it’s not the only shark that does this. There’s a number of fish species that glow in the dark and use it to their advantage. You can learn more about that specifically with this TedTalk by photographer and explorer David Gruber.  With the Ninja Lanternshark’s habitat being so far down in the ocean, it’s really no wonder that it has this ability.  This natural ability allows it to see its surroundings better.

 

2) Its coloration is different from what the general public is used to seeing.  Of course, when most people think of sharks, they think of the sharks like the Great White, or the Hammerhead — sharks that are grey or beige in color.   The Ninja Lanternshark is a deathly-looking, coal black.  That being said, it’s not the only shark to be black.  Other sharks called “Lanternsharks” are also black, as well as sharks like the Pygmy sharks.

 

Ninja Lanternshark
By Victoria Elena Vasquez/Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation

 

3)  It appears to be relatively small, with the females being larger.  Again, only eight specimens were identified, but out of those the largest male Ninja Lanternshark was only 12.8 inches in length (or 325 millimeters).  The largest female came out to 20.3 inches (or 515 millimeters).  However, the fact that the female of the species is larger isn’t an unusual finding.  Chris Fisher of National Geographic’s “Shark Men” has stated that in ‘large ocean fish species, females are almost always bigger than males’.

 

And while being under two feet in length may seem small, the Ninja Lanternshark is not the smallest shark known.  That award goes to the Dwarf Lanternshark, coming up at a whopping 8.3 inches (or 21.2 centimeters).

Do you know more about the Ninja Lanternshark? Tweet at us this week @OfficialFemSTEM!

 

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