11 February 2016

The Smallest Shark Glows in the Dark

Posted on 14 December 2011 by in animal stories, Education, Environment, student research information

Shark Come In Different Sizes

When you think of a shark, you probably imagine a BIG creature which eats meat with rows and rows of sharp teeth. That’s why we have shark nets set up on Australian beaches.

However, sharks come in all shapes and sizes. The biggest shark, a whale shark, is the size of a school bus. The smallest shark, the Dwarf Lantern Shark, can fit on the palm of your hand.
Dwarf Lantern Shark

The Dwarf Lantern Shark Can Fit on Your Hand!

Would you like to hold a shark on your hand? Yes, it does have teeth. There are 25 – 32 rows of teeth in its top jaw and 30-34 rows of teeth in its bottom jaw. That’s a lot of teeth to clean!

Dwarf sharks are approximately 16-17.5 cm long.

What Do Dwarf Lantern Sharks Eat?

You’d be fairly safe holding a dwarf lantern shark in your hand (despite the number of teeth it has!) because dwarf lantern sharks don’t eat people. This shark is so small; it only eats very small prey. Dwarf lantern sharks eat krill, shrimp and small fish.

Amazingly, the smallest shark in the world eats the same food as the largest shark in the world – krill.

Where Do Dwarf Sharks Live?

They live in deep water – approximately 283-439 metres down. They have very big eyes so they can see in the dark. They can be found around off the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela.

Dwarf Sharks Glow

However, the most amazing feature of the dwarf lantern shark is not its size but the fact that it glows. Yes, that’s right! A dwarf lantern shark produces its own light from light-emitting organs can photophores. These light creating photophores are found on the belly of dwarf lantern sharks.

Why Do Dwarf Lantern Sharks Glow?

There’s a special reason why the photophores are found only on the underside of the shark. The light helps to camouflage the shark from predators. It makes the Dwarf Lantern Shark invisible to predators which are swimming below.
Dwarf Lantern Shark

Predators which enjoy dining on the Dwarf Lantern Shark normally have upward looking eyes. The glowing light the Dwarf Lantern Shark emits from its underside causes the shark to blend into the natural light filtering down from the surface of the water. In this way, the Dwarf Shark becomes invisible to anything below which wants to it eat.

Do Dwarf Lantern Sharks Make Good Night Lights?

Imagine having a dwarf lantern shark in an aquarium in your bedroom. You’d never need a night light or a torch again! The only problem is that Dwarf Lantern Sharks don’t live in aquariums. They live in deep water in the ocean. So unless your bed is located in the depths of the ocean, you’ll probably need to find a different source of light at night.

So the next time you hear the word ‘shark’, remember that not all sharks are ferocious man-eaters. There are some that have remarkable abilities such as being able to glow in the dark!

You can read more of Susan’s work, a long time experienced early childhood teacher (over 20 years), author and brilliant illustrator. She is passionate about children learning through fun and enjoying home schooling her two young boys. Check out her web site Stories and Children.

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3 Responses to “The Smallest Shark Glows in the Dark”

  1. Bekah Griggs 11 October 2012 at 10:19 am #

    I thought that this was very helpful, but when I went to look up whale shark for my project, it didn’t show up! All it showed up was this! Please can you write another one for whale shark.


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