Glow-in-the-dark sharks: Scientists discover crazy new species in the Gulf of Mexico

Glow-in-the-dark sharks are real, and they're swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists have discovered a new, tiny species of self-illuminating sharks, according to a new Tulane University study.

The animal, which is the first of its kind found in the Atlantic Ocean, has been named the American Pocket Shark due to its shockingly small size. In total, it's just 5 1/2 inches long

The tiny creature is covered in light-producing glands, and even has a small pouch that squirts out clouds of glowing liquid. Scientists believe the sharks use light to attract prey, which are often drawn to the glow when swimming in deep, dark waters. 

Scientists have discovered only one other pocket shark before, and it was a totally different species. The other shark was discovered in the Pacific Ocean, all the way back in 1979. 

RELATED: Where are shark attacks most common? 

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States with the most shark attacks historically
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States with the most shark attacks historically

10. New York: 10 unprovoked attacks

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9. Georgia: 13 unprovoked attacks

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8. New Jersey: 15 unprovoked attacks

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7. Oregon: 26 unprovoked attacks

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6. Texas: 41 unprovoked shark attacks

The expansive Glaveston beach has had 17 total confirmed attacks.

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5. North Carolina: 60 unprovoked attacks

New Hanover County has had 13 confirmed shark attacks since 1935.

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4. South Carolina: 90 unprovoked attacks

Throughout its history, Charleston County has had 32 shark incidents.

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3. California: 116 unprovoked attacks

San Diego had 17 attacks occur near its beaches.

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2. Hawaii: 143 unprovoked attacks

56 occurred in Maui, home to Wailea and Mākena beaches.

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1. Florida: 748 unprovoked attacks 

At least 275 confirmed attacks occurred in Volusia County, home to New Smyrna and Dayton beaches.

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“In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researcher Mark Grace said in a statement. “Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare.”

Many sea creatures can glow in the dark — more than 90 percent of animals living in open water can produce light, according to the NOAA —but for sharks, it's an incredibly rare trait. There are more than 500 known species of sharks on the planet, only three of which are luminescent

Tulane researcher Henry Bart noted that the discovery highlights just how in the dark scientists are when it comes to exploring the world's oceans.  

“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," Bart said

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