There is still a lot we don’t know about down in the depths of the oceans. The canyons and volcanoes shrouded in eternal darkness still harbor unknown species, possibly including an entirely new species of whale. But even the species we do know about, we have little knowledge of their life and behavior.
These include the strange looking ghost sharks, or chimera, that call the ocean deep home. Closely related to sharks and rays, ghost sharks are an ancient group of fishes that split from their cartilaginous brethren nearly 400 million years ago and have remained isolated at depths of up to 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) ever since.
Despite their long evolutionary history, with over 50 species having been described, still so little is known about them. Now researchers have filmed one species, the pointy-nosed blue chimera (Hydrolagus trolli), for the first time as it glides through the dark. The footage was actually a happy accident, as geologists sent a remotely operated rover down to 6,700 feet off the coast of California and Hawaii.
Initially believing that it may have been a new species of chimera, it was only until it landed on the screen of a ghost fish expert that it was identified as belonging to the pointy-nosed blue chimera species, making it the first such recording of the creature. Not only that, but the species was originally believed to only swim the waters off the coast of Australia and New Zealand, meaning that the video also expands the known range of the bizarre-looking fish.
With our knowledge of many specimens of fish, and in fact many species living in the deep, coming from those caught in fishermen’s nets, getting video footage of the animals in their natural environment can be vital in understanding them in greater detail. Despite being one of the largest and most charismatic creatures in the ocean, it was only relatively recently that the first footage of live giant squid was taken, and it revealed their beautiful metallic color, which is lost when the animal dies.
The experts now want to try and retrieve DNA evidence from the pointy-nosed chimera to truly determine its identity and officially confirm that it does live in the waters off the US. They’ll be doing so by visiting fishermen’s markets and checking their catches.
[H/T National Geographic]