In January 2020, three new shark species that glow in the dark were discovered off the east coast of New Zealand.
According to NBC News, a study published in the Frontiers in Marine Science journal on Feb. 26 identifies the glowing species as the kitefin shark, the blackbelly lanternshark, and the southern lanternshark.
NBC News reports the discovery is the first time scientists have been able to find proof of bioluminescence in sharks.
“Bioluminescence has often been seen as a spectacular yet uncommon event at sea but considering the vastness of the deep sea and the occurrence of luminous organisms in this zone, it is now more and more obvious that producing light at depth must play an important role structuring the biggest ecosystem on our planet,” the study states according to NBC News.
According to the study, the newly discovered species live in the ocean’s “twilight zone,” up to 3,200 feet below sea level, beyond which solar light does not penetrate and is too weak to initiate photosynthesis, NBC News reports.
According to the report, researchers speculate the sharks glow as a way to illuminate the ocean floor while hunting for food and camouflage themselves in order to fend off potential predators and capture prey.