Deep-Sea Ghost Shark Filmed For The First Time

A group of scientists unwittingly filmed a pointy-nosed blue chimaera ghost shark for the first time off the coast of Hawaii and California.

The Pointy-nose ghost shark

The Pointy-Nose Blue Chimaera: The Channels On Its Face Give It A ‘Rag Doll’ Apperance

While surveying the depths of the ocean beyond where the sun’s rays can penetrate, a group of American scientists unwittingly filmed what appears to be the mysterious pointy-nosed ghost shark for the first time.

The team were filming in the ocean off the coast of Hawaii and California. They were there on a task from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California (MBARI). The creature crossed in front of their remote operated vehicle down at a depth of 2,000 meters (6,700 feet) when it was caught on camera. Interestingly, the team was actually on a geological mission in that area. The assignment was totally unconnected with anything ‘fishy’ when this creature bumped across their ROV lens. Here’s a link to the Chimaera Video that was recorded.

They guessed it was a new species of ghost shark, since it didn’t resemble any of the earlier known species in that region. But to be certain, they reached out to chimaera experts for clarification. One of these experts is Dr. David A. Ebert, program director at the Pacific Shark Research Center. After analyzing the video, their opinion was unanimous; the fish is a pointy-nosed blue chimaera or Hydrolagus trolli. It’s a species usually found near Australia and New Zealand.

This is the first time the pointy-nosed blue chimaera has been filmed alive in its natural habitat. Also, it took from 2009 when the video was filmed till December 2016 to confirm the identity of the ghost shark.

Here’s what we know so far about this very rare creature called the chimaera or ghost shark:

Physical Appearance Of The Pointy-Nosed Blue Chimaera Ghost Shark.

Head shot of the pointy-nose ghost shark

Head Shot Of The Pointy-Nose Ghost Shark: Notice The Dull Eyes And Pale Color

These odd-looking, rarely seen fish are also called chimaeras. The ghost shark has a dull, milky-dead-eyed look, and wing-like fins. They don’t have rows of jagged teeth like most of the other well-known sharks. Instead, they have mineralized tooth plates. Obviously, this kind of dentition means they eat by munching rather than tearing their prey. They feed on bottom-dwelling prey like mollusks and worms.

Strangely enough, the most fascinating feature of this fish is that the male of the species has a retractable sex organ on its forehead. The video footage shows an interesting pattern of open channels running across its head and face. These channels are called lateral line canals and they contain motion-sensing cells that help the ghost shark locate prey. All these add to the fascinating and eerie appearance of the ghost shark as it looks like a roughly sewn rag doll.

Ancestry

Ghost sharks are relatives of sharks and rays. But experts believe they split off from that group about 300 million years ago. Although ghost sharks have been swimming in the oceans long before the dinosaurs, their chosen habitat deep in the oceans means humans still know very little about them.

Habitat

Apparently, the pointy-nosed blue chimaera seems to prefer the rocky habitat in which it was found. This is in spite of the fact that its fellow ghost sharks usually live in flat, soft-bottom terrain. Its natural habitat is the open seas at depths of between 610 to 2,000 meters (2,000 to 6,560 feet).

Most likely, its distribution covers much of the globe, but statistics regarding its population, conservation status, living habits, etc. are scanty at best.

The Search Continues For More Information On This And Other ‘Lost Sharks’

Assuming the conclusion of this team of chimaera experts is correct, then this would be the first sighting of this species in the Northern Hemisphere. This is an exciting and lucky find because actively searching for this kind of fish is extremely difficult. Many of these ‘lost shark’ species are widely distributed across the earth’s ocean at great depths so to get to them, scientists would have to trawl right down to the bottom of the ocean. That’s certainly no mean feat.

For now, Dr. Ebert is on a mission to find actual specimens of this shark in the local markets so he can get some DNA samples for further analysis.

The ghost sharks, including the pointy-nosed chimaera, the spookfish, ratfish, rabbitfish, etc. still remain something of an enigma that science doesn’t know too much about yet.

For now, we hope these beautiful and gentle creatures will be allowed to continue swimming peacefully away from human intrusion at the great depths they enjoy, deep in the earth’s oceans.

 

References:

1. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/12/pointy-nosed-blue-chimaeras-ghost-sharks/

2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/19/mysterious-ghost-shark-caught-on-film-for-the-first-time

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointy-nosed_blue_chimaera

4. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2435611/deep-sea-ghost-shark-blue-chimaera/

 

Video Reference:

 

Photo Credit:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Deep_sea_chimaera.jpg

 

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