Ultra rare "ghost shark" captured on film for first time

Sharks like hammerheads or great whites might usually enjoy the most time in the limelight, but this past weekend, all eyes have been on the mysterious "ghost shark." While not technically a shark – National Geographic points out that these fish are relatives of sharks and rays – and most certainly not a ghost, Hydrolagus trolli is still making quite the splash. That's because this is the first time one has been captured alive on film, in its natural habitat.

When the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California filmed the blue sea creature, which is also known as a chimaera, it wasn't even looking for it. Instead, a team of geologists sent a remotely operated vehicle into the depths of the Pacific Ocean near California and Hawaii. That's when they stumbled upon the ghost shark, at a depth of around 6,700 feet.

The footage of this discovery was actually uploaded back in October, but over the weekend, it went viral. In the video, the Institute says that this footage "represents a significant range extension into the Northern Hemisphere." It also describes what makes the chimaera stand out, such as a skeleton made of cartilage instead of bone, and tooth plates in place of rows of teeth, which it uses to grind up its food.

According to National Geographic, The Institute reached out to Dave Ebert and his team at the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories to figure out what species it had captured on film. Though it's likely that the Institute has captured footage of Hydrolagus trolli, the only way to confirm that would be to capture a specimen and analyze its DNA. If it turns out that this isn't Hydrolagus trolli, then it's possible a new species of chimaera has been discovered.

It isn't hard to see why this ghost shark has pulled in so much attention over the weekend. The fact that it's such a rare species combined with its mysterious, almost spooky look has turned it into an internet sensation. Have a look at the video above to see more about Hydrolagus trolli.

SOURCE: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute