WashingtonPost reports that scientists seem to capture on video a creature that had never before been filmed live – the pointy-nosed blue chimaera.
The video itself was taken in 2009. However, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has released it along with a paper by researcher Lonny Lundsten and his colleagues only recently.
Six years ago, researchers from the nonprofit sent an ROV, or remotely operated vehicle, to study the waters of central California and Hawaii. The ROVs captured footage from depths of up to 6,700 feet. The results were rather surprising for scientists – on the video they saw a species of ghost shark previously only caught in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
Lundsten reveals in his paper that he had showed the video to three chimaera experts. All three recognized the fish as a pointy-nosed blue chimaera.
Still, even taking into account similar physical characteristics, Lundsten as well as other researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium institute have doubts that the fish captured on video is a pointy-nosed blue chimaera. That’s why, the paper refers to the fish they recorded as Hydrolagus cf. trolli, rather than its scientific name, Hydrolagus trolli.
Representatives of the Institute say that they have to capture the ghost shark and bring it back to the surface to be absolutely sure.
“This is much easier said than done, because these fish are generally too large, fast, and agile to be caught,” the institute notes. “If and when the researchers can get their hands on one of these fish, they will be able to make detailed measurements of its fins and other body parts and perform DNA analysis on its tissue.”
Just like its Greek mythological namesake, the chimaera is a mysterious, rarely seen creature with a patchwork of bizarre features. It has pale and seemingly dead eyes, which is explained by its habitation in the depths of the ocean. The ghost shark uses tooth plates instead if teeth to grind food. Its head is lined with cryptic dots, like the remnant scars of ancient stitches. Male chimaeras have retractable sex organs on their foreheads.
“Chimaeras are unusual fishes. Like sharks, their bodies are not stiffened by bones, but by plates and bone-like bits of cartilage. Like the chimaera from Greek mythology, which had a goat’s head, a serpent’s tail, and a lion’s head, chimaeras are pretty weird looking”, says the Monterey Bay Aquarium institute. “Chimaeras are relatively common and widespread in the deep sea, with 38 known species around the world.”
As if to emphasize the bizarre appearance of chimaeras, they have other nicknames — ratfish, rabbitfish, spookfish.