Mysteries of the deep

Researchers explain how some sharks glow green in the dark

By Author  |  Published: 9th Aug 2019  10:52 pm
Mysteries of the deep

It may not sound like the best way to go incognito, but some species of shark that lurk on the ocean floor glow a bright green hue visible to others of their kind. Scientists revealed they had identified the molecules responsible for the marine predators’ biofluorescence, and that it might perform other functions too like fighting microbial infection.

Mysteries of the deepThe research published in iScience pinpoints a previously unknown family of small-molecule metabolites.”It’s very different from all the other forms of marine biofluorescence” such as the processes seen in jellyfish and corals, said David Gruber, a professor at City University of New York and co-author of the study.

“This is a small molecule rather than a protein, and it shows that in the blue ocean, animals are independently evolving this ability to absorb blue light and transform it into other colours.” The paper focused on two species, the swell shark and chain catshark, that Gruber studied during scuba dive trips in Scripps Canyon, off the coast of San Diego.

What’s more, they dwell at depths of 30 meters or more, where only light at the blue end of the spectrum penetrates — if you were bitten there and started bleeding, it would come out looking inky black.