Researchers filming off the coast of California captured a wondrous creature on video for the first time: the mysterious and elusive chimaera, or ‘ghost shark’.
The team from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Center had sent a remote operated vehicle down to depths of 2,000 metres (6,700ft) when the creature appeared on their screens.
Also known as chimaeras, the creatures are related to sharks and rays. But unlike their namesakes, ghost sharks have tooth plates instead of teeth and open channels on their heads and faces that give them the appearance of having been stitched together like a rag doll.
Most remarkably perhaps, they have a retractable penis on their heads.
The species, normally found in Australia and New Zealand, has never been captured on video alive in its natural habitat.
The footage was shot in 2009, but just recently released:
In 2009, the institute sent a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, on several dives to depths of up to 6,700 feet in waters off California and Hawaii. They weren’t looking for ghost sharks: “The guys doing the video were actually geologists,” says Dave Ebert, program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. (See more amazing shark pictures.)
“Normally, people probably wouldn’t have been looking around in this area, so it’s a little bit of dumb luck,” he says.
One fish the ROV kept running into looked like a new ghost shark, since it did not resemble ghost shark species known to frequent either of these regions.
Watch the footage: