Velvet belly lantern sharks are one of the most common deepwater sharks in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean near Iceland and Norway to Gabon and South Africa at depths between 20 m to 2, 490 m. They are most commonly found between the depths of 200 to 500 m. Older velvet belly lantern sharks will move closer to the bottom of the ocean.
Biology and Behaviour:
Velvet belly lantern sharks are small and grow no longer than 45 cm. They are named after their black underbelly that contrasts between its brown body. Its body is fairly stout, with a moderately long snout and tail with very small gills.
Similar to other lantern sharks, velvet belly lantern sharks are bioluminescent where they have light-emitting photophores forming a specific pattern over its flanks and abdomen. Their ventral photophores are thought to be used as a counter-illumination, where it camouflages them against predators and prey. They may also use their photophores as a way to communicate with each other.
The young sharks will feed primarily on krill and small bony fish and as they grow older, they eat squid and shrimp.
Like many other deep sea creatures, velvet belly lantern sharks have special adaptations within and on their body for a better survival rate. They have t-cells and liver protein for higher concentrations of heavy metals found in the ocean.
Reproduction and Lifespan:
Velvet belly lantern sharks are ovoviviparous and give birth to litters between six and 20 young sharks every two to three years. Velvet belly sharks mature between five to six years.
Conservation and Tourism
The IUCN has listed velvet belly lantern sharks as least concern.
An introduction ban on bottom trawling below 1,000 m deep in the Mediterranean Sea can help protect velvet belly lantern sharks. Adult female sharks that frequent the bottom of the ocean are more inclined to be caught as bycatch compared to younger sharks that frequent shallower waters in the Northeast Atlantic. Given the information, lantern sharks are assessed as near threatened by the IUCN in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, everywhere else is considered least concern.
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