One of the strangest and rarest creatures in the ocean has finally been caught alive on camera for the first time. The creature is Hydrolagus trolli, also known as a ghost shark or chimera. This bizarre shark relative lives at extreme ocean depths and is usually found in the Southern Hemisphere in waters around Australia and New Zealand.
Aside from the footage, what makes the new sightings unique is also the fact that it was spotted in the Northern Hemisphere near Hawaii, implying that this fish’s habitat might be more widely-distributed than we know.
The strange creature was spotted at a depth of 6,700ft by an ROV - remotely-operated vehicle - on an expedition led by researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. In the video released by National Geographic, the ghost shark appears to be ‘stitched’ together with the seams still exposed. The lines, however, are actually what are known as lateral line canals, a type of electroreceptive sensory system that can detect other animals’ movements in the waters surrounding the shark.
While the video seems to clearly show a specimen of the elusive ghost shark, the researchers are careful to note in their published findings that like every scientific discovery, more evidence is needed before the identity of the bizarre shark in the video can be confirmed:
Our specimens cannot yet be confirmed as Hydrolagus trolli until morphometric data and or DNA samples from preserved specimen have been collected and analyzed. However, these observations by ROVs suggest that even in relatively well-known areas much remains to be elucidated on the Chondrichthyan fauna from these regions.
Ghost sharks and other species in its evolutionary order split away from other sharks around 400 million years ago. One bizarre adaptation the animal displays is the fact that its retractable sexual organs are located on its forehead. The reason for such an adaptation remains a mystery.