Ghost shark is no phantom fish

It may not be a real shark, but this video proves that this bizarre, fascinating fish is the real deal
Ghost shark This screenshot from a video of the pointy blue-nosed chimaera shows the amazing lines and dots that mark its face. (Courtesy of MBARI)

Sharks are some of the top predators of the seas. But they come in many shapes and sizes, and while all sharks are predators of some kind, most are more gentle than we tend to think. They're also more mysterious, too.

Which brings us to the remarkable ghost shark. For starters, this isn't actually a shark, though it is a close relative. It belongs to a group of fish called chimaera (say ky-MARE-ah). This fellow is the pointy blue-nosed chimaera, or Hydrolagus trolli. Like sharks, chimaeras are cartilaginous fish. This means that they have skeletons made of cartilage (the flexible stuff in your nose), not bone.

Chimaeras also have a bunch of other names: rat fish, rabbit fish, spookfish... but we're going to stick with ghost shark for this post. Not only does it sound the coolest (come on..."ghost shark"? Best name ever!), but it also suits the fish's appearance and nature perfectly.

Rare and rarely seen

This rat fish is a relative of the pointy blue-nosed chimaera. Like true sharks, chimaera are an ancient species of fish that have stayed basically unchanged for millions of years. (Getty Embed)

To begin, the ghost shark is a rarely seen deep sea fish. It is proof that we really know very little about what lives in the sea. It was only discovered in 2002, in waters off of Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. The video you're about to watch was taken in the deep Eastern Pacific Ocean off Hawaii and California in 2009. Wait, wasn't that 7 years ago? Yep, but the researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) waited to the release the footage. Not because it was too scary (BOO!). No, they've just been spending time researching exactly which animal they had filmed. And to be honest, they still don't known for certain—that's how mysterious this fish is!

But what they do know is still quite something. Most incredible? The face of this ghost shark. It doesn't have teeth, but bony teeth plates. And it looks almost like its face is made of sections stitched together. Pair this Frankenstein feature with its giant, reflective eyes... and this is a bit of spooky fish.

Ready to learn about this rare ocean apparition? (That's a fancy word for "ghost"...) Watch the video below!

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