The ghost shark is a unique species
In 2009, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) exploring the seabed at the Gulf of California captured the image of what appeared to be a ghost shark; it kept swimming in front of the ROV's camera. A recent paper published in Marine Biodiversity Records journal now identifies the animal as a pointy-nosed blue chimaera (Hydrolagus trolli).
The subsequent investigation of the footage, which was filmed at 2,000 metres depth, by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California (MBARI) revealed that the chimaera (also called a ghost shark) was very large. This was the first time this species was officially identified in the Northern Hemisphere.
Most notably, this was also the first time the chimaera was filmed alive in its natural habitat.
Although the identification is supported by evidence and has been confirmed by three different chimaera experts, positive confirmation is as yet impossible without examining DNA samples, and this is currently unavailable.
The ghost shark is a unique species, being related to both sharks and rays. Like sharks, it has cartilage instead of bones. Instead of teeth, it uses mineralised tooth plates to munch their prey. Another fascinating characteristic about this species is that the sexual organ of the male is located on their foreheads, and is restractable.
However, if it turns out that it is not the same species, then the footage is the first evidence of a new, hitherto unknown species.
More information: www.mbari.org
Link to the study: mbr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41200-016-0095-5
Article about Chimaera (in German) in DiveInside magazine.