This Mysterious ‘Ghost Shark’ Was Captured on Camera For the First Time

December 19, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

ghost shark
Photo credit: Screen capture from MBARI video

The strange shark, also known as a spookfish, features retractable sex organs on its forehead.

In a first, researchers have captured the mysterious ‘ghost shark’ — also known as a spookfish — on camera, and with its pale, luminescent skin and dead-looking eyes, the creature certainly lives up to its name.

The species was spotted roaming around the deep sea off the coast of California. It was identified by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) as Hydrolagus cf. trolli, more commonly known as the pointy-nose blue chimaera.

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Unlike the terrifying Jaws-esque sharks most of us imagine in our heads, chimaeras don’t have rows of jagged teeth. Instead, they chew up their prey — typically mollusks, worms, and bottom-dwellers — with mineralized tooth plates. Strangely, the creature also features retractable sex organs on its forehead.

Though the fish closely resembles other known types of ghost sharks, the researchers say there’s a chance it may be an entirely new species. DNA testing stands to confirm, but the researchers have to wait until they get their hands on some tissue for analysis.

This new video footage also suggests that the species exists in a wider range around the planet’s seas than previously expected. The pointy-nosed blue chimaera had only ever been spotted in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, around Australia and New Zealand.

"Similar looking, but as yet unidentified, ghost sharks have also been seen off the coasts of South America and Southern Africa, as well as in the Indian Ocean," Kim Fulton-Bennett reports for MBARI.

"If these animals turn out to be the same species as the ghost sharks recently identified off California, it will be further evidence that, like many deep-sea animals, the pointy-nosed blue chimaera can really get around.”

The researchers published a report on the chimaera sighting in Marine Biodiversity Letters.
You can see the spookfish in motion in the video below.

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