Sharks are cute.
No, really, hey where are you going? It's true, just look at the newly-discovered critter at the top of this post. It's almost like a baby sperm whale. And it's called a pocket shark, which is about as charming as it gets.
But even if you're still not won over by this fish's sleek good looks and winsome name, it has yet another feature to add to its "I'm Awesome!" column.
It can ooze glow-in-the-dark fluid. Come on, that's pretty amazing, right?
So what is this new species of shark all about?
This is Mollisquama mississippiensis (say MOH-lis-KWA-mah miss-ih-SIH-pee-en-sis), a species of pocket shark discovered in the Gulf of Mexico by marine biologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (a.k.a. NOAA, we're big fans!). It was discovered in deep water — about 330 metres (1,083 feet) down. And given that it is only 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) long, we're lucky that it was found at all!
You might think that the name 'pocket shark' refers to the fact that you could pretty much slide one into a pocket without anyone knowing (not that we'd recommend that). That's what we thought, too. But that is incorrect!
Instead, the name refers to the two pockets found on either side of the animal, next to its gills. And these, ladies and gentlemen, are where the glow-in-the-dark magic happens! The pockets secret a bioluminous fluid. In addition, the shark is covered by light-producing organs called photophores, which only add to its glowability.
Sounds amazing. But why can they do this?
Only two ever found
We can certainly take a stab at guessing. Plenty of other deep sea animals are luminous in one way or another, something that can come in handy in a realm that sunlight cannot touch.
But other than educated guesses, we essentially know nothing about pocket sharks. In fact, only one other pocket shark has ever been recorded, and that was decades ago and thousands of miles away (in 1979 in the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Chile). After years of analysis, biologists believe that this recent pocket shark is its own species. Beyond that, they're a bit of a mystery. We hope that it doesn't stay that way, though. We need more cute sharks in our lives!