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Back in 1979, researchers found a small shark in the Eastern Pacific Ocean that had never been seen before. Because the small shark had a pocket near its gills, scientists named it the pocket shark. Within the pocket are glands that produce a bioluminescent fluid that helps the shark attract prey. Unfortunately, after this initial discovery another pocket shark was not seen for several decades.
Then, in 2010, a group of researchers from NOAA found a pocket shark in the Gulf of Mexico. However, a recent study shows that these two animals are not the same species. This means there are two known species of pocket sharks in the world.
In total, the shark only measures around 5 inches long but it’s small razor-like teeth and other body characteristics identifies it as a shark. Mark Grace, the biologist who processed the animal says, “I knew it was a species of shark. But I’d never seen anything like it before.” Unlike the original pocket shark, this species has photophores all over its body. The photophores product light allowing the shark to glow in the dark.
Based on the shark’s body type, researchers speculate that it has similar feeding habits to sperm whales, but further study is necessary to better understand it. Grace notes, “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, especially its deeper waters, and how many additional new species from these waters await discovery.”