Tulane University: Meet the American pocket shark

New shark species found in Gulf waters

Thomas Perumean
July 22, 2019 - 12:22 pm

Tulane University - Mike Doosey


It's 5-and-a-half inches long, somewhat resembles a sperm whale, is cute as a button, squirts luminescent fluid, and it's a shark.  

“In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported,” Mark Grace with NOAA said. “Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare.”

Henry Bart with Tulane University Biodiversity Research states, “The fact that only one pocket shark has ever been reported from the Gulf of Mexico, and that it is a new species, underscores how little we know about the Gulf — especially its deeper waters — and how many additional new species from these waters await discovery.”

This specimen was caught in 2010 in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico by the NOAA ship Pieces while on a mission to collect information on sperm whale feeding.  The specimen was brought to Tulane's Royal D. Suttkus Fish Collection in 2015.  

According to Tulane researchers, the Pocket Shark has two pockets near its gills that secrete a luminous fluid, which they believe could help the shark attract prey.

The only other pocket shark, also known as a Kitefin Shark, was caught in 1979 in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and is housed at the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.  

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