The velvet belly lantern shark (Etmopterus spinax) is not an animal that feels like velvet, despite the common name it bears. In fact, the name comes from their black underbelly that is rather distinct from their overall brown colour. Weird, huh?
Like many other lanternsharks, they are a stout animal... sort of looking like cigars that have very small gills and can glow in the dark. Say whaaat?! Yeah! Like many deep sea animals, they are bioluminescent, and have light-emitting photophores on their sides and abdomen. It is thought that these photophores are arranged in a species- specific pattern and may be used for counter-illumination (camouflaging the shark against predators and prey) and intraspecific communication.
Speaking of prey, what do they eat? Small fish, squids, and crustaceans- yum! Juveniles seem to feed mostly on krill and small fish, transitioning to the larger animals (squid and crustaceans) as they grow up. Found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, they tend to be spotted on continental shelves and slopes at about 70–2,000 metres deep. Most abudant at 200-500 metres deep, they are at risk of swimming into some deep-sea fishery operations.
But, they should worry more about parasites, as they seem to be covered! They are viviparous with a yolk-sac and produce 6-20 pups each litter every two to three years. The IUCN has assessed these animals as Least Concern (LC).
EVER HEARD OF THIS SHARK?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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