The ocean is a constant source of wonder. It’s depths hold mysteries that we might never know–creatures we might never find, secrets that we’ll never unlock. Walt Whitman said it best: “To me, the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?”
According to the NOAA, despite the fact that the ocean is what makes all life on this planet possible, we’ve only explored about 5% of it. Considering that the ocean covers 70% of the earth’s surface, that almost guarantees we’re missing out on a very large piece of the puzzle. That piece, though, recently got a little bit smaller. Researchers filmed something called a ghost shark in its natural habitat for the very first time.
Ghost sharks are also known as chimaeras, and according to National Geographic, up until the footage you see above, had never been seen never been filmed alive in the deep sea. Apparently, it’s also the first time this species–called a pointy-nosed blue chimaera–has been found in the Northern Hemisphere.
Chimaeras have been around since before the dinosaurs, and are a distant relative of rays and sharks. The footage was actually obtained by accident, when a group of geologists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium sent an ROV off California and Hawaii. “Normally, people probably wouldn’t have been looking around in this area,” said Dave Ebert to Nat Geo. Ebert is the program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. “It’s a little bit of dumb luck,” he continued.
While other species of ghost shark are known to inhabit those regions, the pointy-nosed blue chimaera usually hangs out around Australia. They’re unlike most sharks for a few major reasons. Instead of having rows of teeth, ghost sharks have tooth plates that they use to chew their prey. The strange pattern on their heads is called a lateral line canal, and is used to help movement from potential prey. Males also have a retractable sex organ on their forehead, giving new meaning to the old joke, “You’ve got a dickfore on your forehead.”
So although scientists have known about the pointy-nosed blue chimera for ages, it is still interesting to see one alive in its home deep beneath the sea.