Yes, this is about Dr. Evil's dream: Sharks with frickin' lasers. Except that the lasers would not be artificially attached, but be part of the animal itself (bio-lasing instead of simply bioluminescence).

In short: Would it be possible for an animal (shark or otherwise) to grow a laser at its head and put it to use? This could be a genetically engineered animal, but the laser is supposed to grow, not to be artificially attached, and the animal is supposed to be able to use it "naturally" (that is, without needing special training, similar to how it uses e.g. its voice or its muscles), either for catching/killing prey, or for fighting predators or other animals which pose a danger, or maybe even simply for signalling (similar to a laser pointer).



  • Human kidney cells were modified to include a green florescent protein (GFP) that is capable of emitting a very weak laser light that is visable to the naked eye. The GFP needs to be put into an optical cavity (between two mirrors) to amplify it.

Unfortunately this is no more powerful than a very weak laser light and not really potent as a weapon and it's not all too clear if this can be scaled up. I have no issues with a bio-optical cavity capable of enhancing the laser light, however it appears it's a bit too weak to be anything special. The applications of these GFP's as far as medical use is pretty outstanding, but from a bio-laser weapon standpoint...it's not very likely.

How about sharks with fricken laser pointers on their head...maybe they can blind a pilot or two, and really add a spinning light show in the event of a sharknado.

Update from comments:

The cell itself does not emit the laser light...the cell is put into an optical cavity, fed pulses of blue light, and then the directional laser is emitted from the optical cavity.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "emitting a very weak laser light" That's not right, perhaps it emitted coherent light. The part where it "needs to be put into an optical cavity to amplify it" is the part where it would become a laser. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 9 '15 at 20:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Article :The team engineered human embryonic kidney cells to produce GFP, then placed a single cell between two mirrors to make an optical cavity just 20 micrometres across. When they fed the cell pulses of blue light, it emitted a directional laser beam visible with the naked eye — and the cell wasn't harmed. The width of the laser beam is "tiny" and "fairly weak" in its brightness compared to traditional lasers, says Yun, but "an order of magnitude" brighter than natural jellyfish fluorescence, with a "beautiful green" colour. nature.com/news/2011/110612/full/news.2011.365.html $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 9 '15 at 20:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yes, thanks for the source, the laser is emitted from the optical cavity, not directly from the cell. It's an interesting concept. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 9 '15 at 20:39

Depends on what you want it for, Sharks live in the water, so if you want it to be a killing laser, then it would have to produce a LOT of energy to travel through the water and still have enough to poke a hole in it, you might have more luck in 'cooking' it than killing it with a hole. Most likely it would be almost close enough just to eat it before it becomes really dangerous.

Now sending enough juice to heat up the water and make it boil might be a way to confuse the fish, but dolphins already use air bubbles to corral fish.

David Brin had species that used lasers as bats use echolocation, for distances etc. This could be a use for it to come about, down in the dark depths.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Also, if a shark is using a laser to boil the water around a bunch of fish, it is also boiling the water around itself. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 9 '15 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @KSmarts Yep! Something else to have to deal with! $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 9 '15 at 20:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Boiling the water with a laser is one proposed supercavitation technology, so you then have a supersonic shark. $\endgroup$ – Pete Kirkham Mar 9 '15 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ @PeteKirkham Sweet! $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 9 '15 at 22:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.