Mysterious 'ghost shark' caught on video for first time ever

Remote cameras accidentally catch images of the phantasmal creature with a sex organ on its forehead, far from the waters previously believed to be its home.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

It's like the plot of a Michael Crichton book. The disturbing-looking pointy-nosed blue chimaera, also known as a "ghost shark," has been caught alive on video for the first time, purely by accident.

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute repeatedly captured footage of numerous species while on dives up to 6,700 feet (2,042 meters) below the sea off the coast of southern California, central California and the Hawaiian islands, in 2009. The footage and an accompanying paper in "Marine Biodiversity Records" came out in October, but the video just started to pick up steam this past week.

The institute wasn't looking specifically for the creatures -- the bluish, pointy-nosed sharks simply happened to be caught on camera on six separate occasions during remotely operated vehicle deep-sea surveys.

But it was a happy accident.

Not only has the pointy-nosed blue chimaera never before been filmed alive, the research institute reports, scientists at first thought it was a different variety, as this species was not known to live in the Northern Hemisphere.

"Hydrolagus cf. trolli was previously only known to occur in the southern Pacific Ocean off of Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia," the institute reports.

Hydrolagus trolli takes its name from Alaskan artist Ray Troll, known for his fascination with ancient animal and sea life. The "cf" means the creature is thought to be hydrolagus trolli, but has yet to be confirmed, something that could probably only be done if one were caught and brought to the surface.

This ghost shark species is older than the dinosaurs, National Geographic reports, and looks it. It's a creature straight out of science fiction, with its dead eyes, bluish-gray corpse-like coloring and a retractable sex organ on its forehead (no, really).

"I love this fish," Enio Leyva wrote on the National Geographic video. "It looks like it was stitched together from other fish parts."