Using remote cameras, researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute observed the elusive ghost shark, or “chimaera” off the coasts of California and Hawaii. It’s the first time the chimaera has been seen alive in its natural habitat, and the first time a ghost shark has been spotted in Northern Hemisphere.
The chimaera is a relative of sharks and rays and feeds on mollusks, worms and other deep-sea creatures. They live deep – very, very deep – far below the depths where sunlight can reach, and in a place few humans have ever seen. Very little is known about the species, which split off from their closest relatives, rays and sharks, 300 million years ago.
Chimaera are believed to use mineralized tooth plates to chew their prey, usually mollusks, worms and other leftovers found at such great depths. They appear to lack the powerful jaws and accompanying bite normally associated with many other sharks.
Above: A researcher discovers a rare Greenland shark while using a “drop-cam” to explore the deepest reaches in the oceans.
Since the species cannot be officially verified on camera footage alone, Dave Ebert from the Pacific Shark Research Center and his team will have to get back in the ocean to try and get a DNA sample. In the meantime, Ebert plans to wander around fish markets hoping to chance upon a specimen. Failing that, a trawling ship will be employed to scrape the ocean’s surface for a dead specimen.
For more information, browse this article from National Geographic.