A very small and young Pocket Shark was discovered during a study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The fish were froze to study sperm whale feeding since scientists have been slowly sorting through these frozen fishes for the past 5 years.
Upon discovering a “remarkable pocket gland with its large slit-like external opening located just above the pectoral fin,” NOAA biologist Mark Grace realized this was not just another ordinary fish.
It’s not clear what exactly the shark’s pocket gland is used for, but scientists think it could be for releasing pheromones, based on previous research of similar species. The pocket shark’s scientific name is Mollisquama, and although at only 5.5 inches long you could theoretically fit it in your pocket, its common name actually comes from this gland.
Grace and his team noted that this remarkable animal’s belly had “ventral abdominal photophore agglomerations” which, in lay-man’s term, means it had a grouping of light-emitting organs on its underside.
NOAA Ocean Service genetics expert, Gavin Naylor was able to determine that the pocket shark’s closest relatives are the kitefin shark and the cookie cutter shark, who are fellow members of the Dalatiidae species. While they will often eat smaller sea animals whole, when looking for food, most Dalatiidae will chew out an oval plug of meat from larger creatures.
while the pocket shark discovery is very exciting, it’s also a reminder there’s still much to discover about the millions of creatures that live in our oceans.”