The shark is only five and a half inches long and has two "pockets" that secrete a glowing fluid.

By Helen Murphy / People.com
July 24, 2019
Mark Grace/NOAA

Scientists have discovered a new species of shark that will make you think less Jaws and more “awww.”

Researchers from Tulane University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovered an American pocket shark in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a study published in the Zootaxa journal. The tiny shark — the first of its species to be found — is only five and a half inches long, and can glow in the dark.

The animal is only the second pocket shark ever captured or reported, a press release from Tulane University explained. The first was captured in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 1979, and is now kept in a museum in Russia.

Researchers determined this pocket shark was a different species than the one discovered in 1979 because it had multiple features not seen in the first animal.

The American pocket shark has fewer vertebrae and “numerous light-producing photophores” covering its body, according to the press release. Meanwhile, both pocket shark species have two “small pockets” that secrete a glowing fluid, which could help the shark attract prey.

“In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported,” Mark Grace, one of the co-authors of the study, said. “Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare.”

The Gulf specimen was first caught in 2010, and Grace came across it three years later while examining specimens collected during a NOAA survey. Grace and the other researchers then spent years identifying the shark using CT scans, x-rays and a dissecting microscope.

The shark study’s co-author, Henry Bart, added: “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.”

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