Scientists from New Zealand have been on the look for a very strange and rare creature that has not been seen by humanity for years. The species is named Chimaera, but it is more commonly known as Ghost Shark due to its almost transparent skin. As far as historical records go, only 50 creatures from this species have been found.
The last time the world had seen a ghost shark was in 2009, found by the California Academy of Sciences in the Eastern Pacific. What makes the recent discovery very rare is that this is the first time a baby of the ghost shark had been found. The ghost sharks are very rare because they only live at the bottom of the ocean.
Brit Finucci, a fisheries scientist who was part of the team that made the discovery, said in the press release that the ghost shark was identifiable as being newly hatched because its belly was still full of egg yolk.
“We’re hoping this will give us some more indication about the biology and ecology. From what we do know about the more well-studied species, juveniles can be very different from adults.” (Quote by Brit Finucci)
They are cartilaginous fish with skeletons primarily made up of cartilage and their embryos grow in egg capsules laid on the seafloor, and feed off egg yolk until they hatch. The large, translucent eyes help them to see in the dark deep-sea and they never end up seeing light in their lives. Although called ghost sharks, Chimaera are only closely related to sharks as they diverged from their shark relatives around 400 million years ago.
Those which have been identified in the past are due to a deep-sea fishing method called deep-sea trawling. Like every deep-sea species, Chimaera is at further risk from this method of fishing. A largely indiscriminate method of fishing in which they are caught as bycatch. This increases the chance of harming the fish and removing it from its natural habitat. Most Chimaera that are caught and sent back to the sea die, as they are not used to being near the surface.
Scientists from New Zealand have ventured into Australian waters specifically to find a ghost shark and catch it in an ethical way that would not harm the fish. Just like most deep-sea fishes and animals, they all look as if they have been pulled out of a science fiction movie, but this is mainly caused by the evolution within a habit with no light and the biological characteristics that allow them to survive at the bottom of the ocean.
Little is known about these mysterious animals. In order to preserve them, they need to be studied in their natural habitat which is at depths of over 500m. It is not only the darkness but also the pressure and other risks that are making it difficult for scientists. Previous records state that they tend to live for 30 years and their maturity period comes late.
Chimaera seems to live in all Oceans, apart from the Antarctic. They have been found even at a depth of 2,600m. This new finding of a baby ghost shark gives scientists hope that the species are becoming more common.