Glow-in-the-Dark Sharks Light Up the Ocean With Tiny Organs On Their Skin

Discovering new shark species is a rare occurrence, but this glow in the dark shark was found in July 2017. FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY

Glow-in-the-dark fish might seem like the result of a terrifying chemical spill or lab experiment, but there's a very normal scientific explanation for why the recently discovered Etmopterus lailae shark glows, according to The Guardian.

This species of shark, which was first discovered earlier this year, belongs to the lanternshark family, which is known for its eerie ability to glow. Discovery explained that lanternsharks are one of the three groups of the underwater creatures that can create their own light.

Related: Weird Glow-in-the-Dark Shark with Tiny Body and Massive Nose Discovered 1,000 Feet Below the Pacific

The phenomenon is known as bioluminescence, which is the result of a chemical reaction, according to the University of California, Berkeley. While some of the creatures naturally make bioluminescent chemicals, others use symbiotic bacteria, essentially another organism that's in close contact.

Sharks, however, are different. As The Guardian wrote, researchers discovered that velvet belly lanternsharks actually emit light from tiny, glandular organs known as photophores. Experts believe these organs help sharks communicate among themselves, as well as provide protection from predators by blending in with their surroundings.

As Newsweek previously reported, this latest glowing shark was found in Hawaii this July. At the time, Stephen Kajiura, a researcher who identified the animal, said that the shark's discovery was significant for more than just its glowing abilities.

"You don't come across a new species all that often," Kajiura said in a press release. "A large part of biodiversity is still unknown, so for us to stumble upon a tiny, new species of shark in a gigantic ocean is really thrilling. This species is very understudied because of its size and the fact that it lives in very deep water. They are not easily visible or accessible like so many other sharks."

Glowing sharks may have received their 15 minutes of fame, but they're not the only fish in the sea who can light their own way.

We all glow together—#MBARI study shows that three quarters of #deepsea animals make their own light

— MBARI (@MBARI_News) December 18, 2017

More than 700 types of animals have this ability, with the majority living deep under the sea. In fact, researchers estimate that about 80 to 90 percent of deep sea life has the ability, reported Wired in 2011. Typically blue or green, the light from the glowing animals travels in the water and helps attract a partner, attract prey or confuse potential attackers.