A new species of the pocket shark was found in the Gulf of Mexico. It secretes a liquid that glows in the dark, attracting its prey.
This is a very significant find because it's the only other member of the Mollisquama genus that has been identified, according to a study published in the Zootaxa journal.
Named the American Pocket Shark (Mollisquama mississippiensis) was identified as a new species based on an analysis performed on a single 5½-inch-long male that was caught in the Gulf in 2010.
In Louisiana, researchers from Tulane University applied several different techniques including X-ray imaging and high-resolution CT scans to examine the specimen. It was determined it was a different species of the pocket shark (Mollisquama parini) that was ever reported. In 1979, a pocket shark was captured in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Director of the Tulane Biodiversity Research Institute, Henry Bart, said in the history of science, these are the only two pocket sharks ever captured or reported. He said that both sharks are separate species and from different oceans.
They are both extremely rare and the fact that only one pocket shark was reported from the Gulf of Mexico, this new species emphasizes how very little scientists know about the Gulf, especially in deeper waters. This has led scientists to question how many new species might be in the Gulf, yet to be discovered.
Both M. mississippiensis and M. parini have similar characteristics, they both have two rather large “pockets” near their front fins and gills. In a paper, the latest pocket shark has a fluid that glows and then attracts prey.
Even though both species have similarities, they also have notable differences, according to the Tulane scientists. The M. mississippiensis has fewer vertebrae than the shark found in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Also, the species found in the Gulf has many light-producing organs known as photophores which have been found all over the body.