New species of pocket shark identified by researchers

You probably don't know many people who think that sharks are looking cute. If you want to change that, let them look at the new species of pocket shark that was identified recently.

Named American Pocket Shark, this species was first discovered almost a decade ago in the Gulf of Mexico. It made headlines five years later, in 2015 after it was brought to be studied at Royal D. Suttkus Fish Collection, as part of well-respected Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute.

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American Pocket Shark, or in Latin Mollisquama mississippiensis is about 5,5 inches long and has five differences when compared to the other pocket shark that was classified in the past. That one was caught in 1979 in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and can be seen in Zoological Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Researcher Mark Grace of the NMFS Mississippi Laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that this species is incredibly rare.

Henry Bart, director of the Tulane Biodiversity Research Institute, thinks this is the best proof of how little we know about the Gulf of Mexico. The difference between American Pocket Shark and the only other found so far include fewer vertebrae and more light-producing photophores which cover most of the body.

This pocket shark was collected in February 2010 by pure luck, during the scientific mission was studying sperm whale feeding. The process of identifying new species is a long one, as numerous procedures have to be taken first. It all starts with photographing the specimen, studying x-ray images, and doing HD CT scans.


European Synchrotron Radiation Facility then takes over to take pictures of internal features of the animal using technology that generates x-rays much brighter than the ones used in hospitals. As for scientists, they hope that there will make more discoveries in the near future.

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