Incredible video shows elusive ghost shark in wild for first time

19 Dec 2016

Image: Arend van der Walt/Shutterstock

Meet the Hydrolagus trolli, otherwise known as the pointy-nosed blue ratfish, or even better known as the ghost shark, filmed alive in the wild for the first time ever.

Deep-sea discoveries consistently amaze; with odd forms, colouring, movements, illumination and, above all, eyes often capturing our attention. For the ghost shark, this is no different.

Last month, it was filmed off the coast of California by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), marking the first time such a species (with the additional name of pointy-nosed blue chimaera), was spotted in the wild.

Ghost sharks are pretty unusual, both in appearance and make-up. Their bodies are hardened by plates and cartilage rather than bone, with their scientific name owed to Greek mythology.

Like the chimaera from these myths, which had two heads – a goat’s and a lion’s – and a serpent’s tail, chimaeras are pretty weird looking. There are 38 species known throughout the world, with this particular oddity first discovered in 2002, through remains.

Sadly, despite all but confirming the species on film as that of the 2002 remains, the researchers at MBARI can only truly confirm this if they capture one.

As MBARI explains though, this is easier said than done: “These fish are generally too large, fast, and agile to be caught by MBARI’s ROVs.”

The ghost shark is not the first strange sea creature found in 2016. Indeed, there have been plenty of weird discoveries.

In August, for example, a googly-eyed squid discovery was made by a team of researchers from the Ocean Exploration Trust aboard the Nautilus floating laboratory that has been making its way down the western coast of North America.

Called the stubby squid (rossia pacifica), its cartoon-like characteristics come from its huge eyes, which one of the marine biologists in the team’s video described as looking “so fake”.

If the name Nautilus sounds familiar, it’s because this was the same ship and team that discovered the mysterious purple orb off the Channel Islands, which are not far from the shores of California.

Meanwhile in April, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was diving very deep into the Marianas Trench, thought to be the deepest part of the ocean, searching for new species of sea life.

What it found was extraordinary. Capturing a colourful jellyfish at a depth of around 3,700ft in what is aptly called the Enigma Seamount, it was ultimately identified as that of the genus Crossota.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic