A new species of shark identified by scientists is more fascinating than fearsome. Unlike its hulking, toothy brethren, the American Pocket Shark is a mere five-and-a-half inches long and attracts prey by secreting a glowing fluid from a tiny pocket gland near its front fins.
(If the words to the song “Baby Shark” come to mind, don’t worry, you’re not alone.)
According to a new Tulane University study, the American Pocket Shark, or Mollisquama mississippiensis, is the first of its kind to be discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists stumbled upon it in 2010 while studying sperm whales in the Gulf. It reportedly sat on a shelf until 2013, when it came to the attention of researcher Mark Grace with NOAA’s NMFS Mississippi Laboratories.
A team of researchers, including two from Tulane, reportedly identified the new species of pocket shark by comparing it to a pocket shark captured in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 1979.
"In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported," Grace in a Tulane University news release. "Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare."
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Henry Bart, director of the Tulane Biodiversity Research Institute, marveled at what the discovery could mean for the future of the Gulf.
“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,” he mused.