A new species of shark, Etmopterus lailae from the Lanternshark family has just been identified. Now while we say new, this shark was actually found over 17 years ago but scientists at the Florida Atlantic University have just discovered that it’s a new species. This adds to the 450+ known species of sharks worldwide.
It’s a funny rather than fearsome looking shark with an odd-looking noggin and witch-like snout where its nostrils and olfactory organs are located. All of these are a handy tool when you’re a predator hanging around dark inky depths and you need to find food.
But while it looks beastly, it lacks the beastly proportions you would expect of a shark. It measures a measly 30cm and weighs under 1kg. Like its Lanternsharks relatives, it’s bioluminescent and the flanks on the bottom of its belly glow in the dark. The belly markings are one the unique features of this species.
Researchers have several theories for why the shark's belly is bioluminescent, ranging from ensuring the shark is mating with the right species to attracting the small fish and shrimp on which it feeds.
Other distinctive characteristics include a naked patch without scales on the underside of its snout, as well as internal differences such as the number of vertebrae they have as well as fewer teeth than the other sharks.
Finding it in 1,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, was like finding a haystack for scientists. When you consider that it’s estimated that 95% of the world’s oceans have yet been seen by humans, imagine what other beasts are yet to be discovered? The mind boggles at the possibilities.
The original press release below: