You Will See a Shark That Glows in the Goddamn Dark

Just get thee to California.

By David Gruber

(Courtesy David Gruber)

Last year, my research team found over 180 new species of biofluorescent fish and sharks. This one right here, a swell shark, I found while swimming off the coast of California. These creatures have fortuitously evolved substances that absorb the ocean’s blue light and convert it into a kaleidoscope of greens, yellows, oranges, and reds. With blue being the dominant color in the ocean (the sole color at depth), this feature makes their world spectrally richer — among other possible things. In the coming year, I am looking forward to finding out why they have evolved this way. And to do that, I’m going to have to put myself more in a shark frame of mind. To think like a shark. I think that’s the only way for us humans to better understand marine creatures, especially fluorescent sharks, and to learn how they perceive the reradiated glow that emanates from life in the deep blue.

David Gruber is a marine biologist and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

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