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University professor says newly discovered mini-shark is glow-in-the-dark

It took 17 years before biology professor Stephen Kajiura could identify the species.

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FAU biology professor Stephen Kajiura holds the recently identified shark. Photo courtesy of FAU News Desk

FAU biology professor Stephen Kajiura holds the recently identified shark. Photo courtesy of FAU News Desk

FAU biology professor Stephen Kajiura holds the recently identified shark. Photo courtesy of FAU News Desk

Sean Fann, Contributing Writer

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Many beachgoers are afraid of encountering a shark while swimming but a recently discovered species is more like a small flashlight than a great white.

FAU biology professor Stephen Kajiura recently identified a new species (Etmopterus lailae) of glowing shark that weighs just two pounds and is less than a foot long.

Besides the fact that it’s part of the lantern shark family,  not much is known about the species yet, leaving even Kajiura unsure as to why it has the ability to glow.

“We may not know much yet, but what we do know for sure is that it is different,” he said.

The shark’s scientific name is Etmopterus lailae. Photo courtesy of scientific journal Zootaxa

The shark was discovered nearly two decades ago in the deep waters surrounding the northern Hawaiian Islands. Despite this, it was not identified as a new species until Kajiura and his team tested samples provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“They pulled these fish out of the water 17 years ago and froze them,” Kajiura told the University Press. “One day they came up to me and asked if I wanted a frozen trash bag full of sharks and I said yes.”

Kajiura said that it’s only due to recent advances in genetic testing that made it possible for him to identify the shark as an entirely new species.

“Of the 530 sharks we recognize as of 2017, 20 percent of those species have been identified in the last 15 years,” said Kajiura. “Recently developed high resolution genetics techniques have made these discoveries possible.”

Sean Fann is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email sfann2016@fau.edu.

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