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article imageHow the Ninja lanternshark glows in the dark

By Megan Hamilton     Dec 26, 2015 in Science
Moss Landing - In the depths of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central America, swims an enigmatic shark that uses its jet-black skin to hide, yet it can also glow in the dark.
Previously unknown to science, the Ninja lanternshark is a recent discovery.
The shark was discovered by researchers at the Pacific Shark Research Center, in Moss Landing, California, Business Insider reports.
The Ninja lanternshark is largely mysterious and scientists have much to learn about this little cre...
The Ninja lanternshark is largely mysterious and scientists have much to learn about this little creature.
YouTube screen grab Victoria Elena Vásquez, David A. Ebert, Douglas J. Long
The shark earned its common name when researcher Vicky Vásquez asked her four young cousins what the shark's name should be. The kids, ages 8-14, suggested "super ninja shark," but she took it one step further, Hakai magazine reports. Its' official Latin name is Etmopterus benchleyi, after Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws.
Living at depths of 2,742 feet to 4,734 feet, the discovery of this creature has been detailed in a study published in the Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation, Mashable reports.
"The common name we have suggested, Ninja Lanternshark, refers to the shark's color which is a uniform sleek black as well as the fact that it has fewer photophores [organs that emit light] than other species of lanternsharks," Vásquez wrote in an email to Mashable.
Glowing in the dark might seem like a way to get yourself noticed by the wrong critters, but Vásquez says this likely works well for the shark. She noted that lanternsharks glow just enough to hide their shadows, and this is likely a form of camouflage.
So far, researchers have discovered about eight specimens of these mysterious sharks, which are about 18 inches long. The first specimen was discovered in 2010. It had been placed in storage at the California Academy of Sciences, Huffpost Science reports.
Vásquez is assisting her colleague, professor Dave Ebert, in identifying the "lost sharks" that, as yet, haven't been described.
"About 20 percent of all shark species have been discovered in just the last 10 years," he told Hakai Magazine. "My whole research is looking for 'lost sharks.'"
Taxonomy can be somewhat dry, but people get excited by the naming thing, said Ebert, program director for the PSRC.
And the discovery of this little shark shows there are still large numbers of species still waiting to be described.
Not a lot is known about lanternsharks, said Vásquez, a graduate student at the PSRC. They don't receive as much recognition as a great white. So when it came to the Ninja lanternshark, she wanted to give it an interesting story.
The Ninja lanternshark is the first lanternshark discovered in the waters off the coast of Central America.
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