Ghost Shark Older Than Dinosaurs Caught on Video for the First Time

Source: National Geographic Australia

Also called chimaeras, ghost sharks are dead-eyed, wing-finned fish rarely seen by people. Relatives of sharks and rays, these deep-sea denizens split off from these other groups some 300 million years ago.

Even though ghost sharks have been gliding through the depths since long before the dinosaurs, we still know very little about them. Now, video recently released by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California has shined new light on these mysterious creatures.

In 2009, the institute sent a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, on several dives to depths of up to 6,700 feet in waters off California and Hawaii. They weren’t looking for ghost sharks: “The guys doing the video were actually geologists,” says Dave Ebert, program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

“Normally, people probably wouldn’t have been looking around in this area, so it’s a little bit of dumb luck,” he says.

One fish the ROV kept running into looked like a new ghost shark, since it did not resemble ghost shark species known to frequent either of these regions.

To find out its identity, the institute reached out to Ebert and other chimaera experts. The team analyzed the video and now believe it’s a pointy-nosed blue chimaera (Hydrolagus trolli), a species usually found near Australia and New Zealand, according to a recent study in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records.

Though the ghost shark is not new to science, it’s still exciting: The video is the first time the pointy-nosed blue chimaera has been seen alive in its natural habitat.

[Photo by NOAA Ocean Exploration/CC BY-SA 2.0]

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