Ninja shark found lurking beneath the shadows

Ninja Lanternshark
A Parody poster of the diminutive shark, created by Vásquez. Image courtesy of Dr Douglas J. Long and D. Ross Robertson.

Victoria Vásquez, from the Pacific Shark Research Center in the USA, and her co-authors, Dr Douglas J. Long and Dr David Ebert have identified a new species of shark and christened it with the stealthiest of monikers. The newly named Ninja Lanternshark joins the 40 other bioluminescent lanternshark species that are already known.

The shark’s snappy aliases don’t end there, it’s scientific name—Etmopterus benchleyi—has its own back story. The species is named “in honour of Peter Benchley and the conservation work he did to counter the negative portrayal that the movie Jaws gave sharks (he wrote the book). His legacy continues through the Benchley Awards,” which recognise outstanding achievements in ocean conservation says Vásquez.

“The suggested common name, the Ninja Lanternshark, refers to the uniform black coloration and reduced photophore complement used as concealment in this species, somewhat reminiscent of the typical outfit and stealthy behavior of a Japanese ninja.”

The Ninja Lanternshark is quite diminutive in comparison to Bentley’s giant Great White. Vásquez sees the discovery as forging a path for understanding the wide variegation to be found in sharks ocean-wide.

“When we think of sharks as one type, we’re not understanding the true complexity of sharks and the roles they play in the ecosystem,” Vásquez said. “They’re not all apex predators.

“I’ve seen a few reports alluding to how dangerous and scary this shark might be, which is pretty funny to me since the largest one we found (a full grown adult) was 515mm long from head to tail. Since we don’t have a lot of specimens we can’t confirm if they grow larger. Nevertheless, since it lives in the deep sea a chance encounter with people is highly unlikely. You would need a submersible to better your odds at finding one, so I just wanted to clarify that there is no danger to people with this new species.”


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