Rare chi­maera filmed live in 2009 is a fish come true

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Amy B. Wang

Like its Greek mytho­log­i­cal name­sake, the chi­maera — or “ghost shark” — is a mys­te­ri­ous, rarely seen crea­ture with a patch­work of bizarre fea­tures.

Dwelling in the depths of the ocean, its eyes are pale and seem­ingly dead.

Where teeth should be, the ghost shark uses tooth plates in­stead to grind food.

Their heads are lined with cryp­tic dots, like the rem­nant scars of an­cient stitches.

Male chi­maeras have re­tractable sex or­gans — on their fore­heads.

Its other nick­names — rat­fish, rab­bit­fish, spook­fish — hint at how bizarre chi­maeras are in ap­pear­ance.

And now, sci­en­tists be­lieve they have cap­tured on video a species of ghost shark that had never be­fore been filmed live: the pointy-nosed blue chi­maera.

The ac­tual video was taken in 2009 but was only re­cently re­leased by the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­ium Re­search In­sti­tute, along with a pa­per by re­searcher Lonny Lund­sten and his col­leagues at the in­sti­tute.

Six years ago, re­searchers from the non­profit sent an ROV, or re­motely op­er­ated ve­hi­cle, on sev­eral dives off the waters of cen­tral California and Hawaii.

The ROVs cap­tured footage from depths of up to 6,700 feet.

What they re­turned with sur­prised re­searchers: On film was what ap­peared to be a species of ghost shark pre­vi­ously only caught in the south­west­ern Pa­cific Ocean.

Ac­cord­ing to his pa­per, Lund­sten con­sulted with three chi­maera ex­perts who watched the video from the div­ing ex­pe­di­tions. All be­lieved the fish was, in fact, a pointy-nosed blue chi­maera.

Still, Lund­sten and oth­ers from the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­ium in­sti­tute can’t be 100 per­cent cer­tain that the fish cap­tured on video is a pointy-nosed blue chi­maera, de­spite their sim­i­lar phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics. Be­cause of that, the pa­per refers to the fish they recorded as Hy­dro­la­gus cf.trolli, rather than its sci­en­tific name, Hy­dro­la­gus trolli.

To be ab­so­lutely sure, re­searchers would have to cap­ture the ghost shark and bring it back to the sur­face, the in­sti­tute said.

“This is much eas­ier said than done, be­cause these fish are gen­er­ally too large, fast and ag­ile to be caught,” the in­sti­tute notes.

The pointy-nosed blue chi­maera was first dis­cov­ered in 2002.

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