‘Ninja lanternshark’ found lurking in the Pacific Ocean
A newly-discovered species of shark with jet black skin and a faint glow is a master of stealth.
The shark, appropriately given the common name “Ninja Lanternshark,” lives in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Central America in waters from
2,742 feet to 4,734 feet, or 836 to 1443 meters, deep.
The animal owes its unique name to the young cousins of Vicky Vásquez, one of the scientists on the team that detailed the new shark finding in a study published in the Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation.
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“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 told Mashable via email.
“Based on that, we felt those unique characteristics would make this species stealthy like a ninja. The common name was actually proposed by my little cousins (ages 8 to 14 yrs. old).”
While glowing in the ocean may not sound like a great way to keep yourself hidden, scientists think it works well for lanternsharks like the Ninja.
According to Vásquez, lanternsharks glow enough to hide their shadows, likely as a form of camouflage.
Scientists are still trying to learn more about Ninja Lanternsharks. So far, researchers have found about eight specimens of the new shark, with the first discovered in 2010.
If researchers are able to study more of these sharks up-close they might be able to answer some basic questions about their biology.
“If more were found, we could really start to explore biology details of this shark like, ‘What is the maximum size?’ Our biggest specimen is only 515 millimeters long, but since it had eggs we know that this was an adult size,” Vásquez said.
“However, we did not find an adult male. If anyone is working off the coast of Central America (on the Pacific Ocean side), they could certainly help by letting us know if they find another one.”
The shark’s scientific name — Etmoterus benchleyi — also has a fun origin story.
It was named for Peter Benchley, the writer of Jaws.
“Although a lot of people are aware of the negative backlash that the movie created for sharks, most are not aware that Mr. Benchley took positive action by creating the Benchley Awards, which seeks to recognize people that have made lasting contributions to ocean conservation,” Vásquez said.
Vásquez refers to the Ninja Lanternshark as a “lost shark,” which are species of shark that get “overshadowed” by other, more charismatic sharks like the Great White.
From 2000 to 2009 scientists “were discovering about 18 new species of Chondrichthyans (sharks and their relatives like stingrays, skates and ghost sharks) every year,” Vásquez said.