Biologists recently came across a newborn chimaera near the South Island of New Zealand. This is an incredibly rare find. These fish, also called “ghost sharks”, evolve in the abyssal depths of the ocean.
The Chimaeriformes (or chimaeras) are an order of cartilaginous fish living in the abyss. These animals are closely related to sharks and rays. There are about fifty species and some adult specimens can reach two meters in length. At such depths, it is naturally rare to come across them. And it is even rarer to come across juveniles and a fortiori newborns.
A “ghost” baby
Translucent and crowned with a pair of giant black eyes on its pointed head, this baby Chimaera got caught in the net of a team of NIWA biologists during a recent trawl survey at around 1,200 meters at the bottom of the Chatham Rise, an area of ocean floor east of New Zealand. It stretches about 1,000 kilometers from the South Island in the west to the Chatham Islands in the east. It is New Zealand’s most productive and important fishing area. The campaign then aimed to estimate the population of another local fish, the hoki.
According to the NIWA researchers, the embryos of these “ghost sharks”, as they are also called, develop in capsules deposited on the seabed. There, the embryos feed on yolk until the time of hatching. “You can tell this Chimaera just hatched because it has a belly full of egg yolk,” said NIWA scientist Brit Finucci in a statement. “It’s quite amazing. Most deep-sea “ghost sharks” are indeed known adult specimens. Hatchlings are rarely reported, so we know very little about them. »
The researchers plan to perform genetic testing on the specimen to try to determine which species it belongs to. Biologists will then be able to compare the newborn to an adult of the same species.
“From better-studied species, we know that juveniles and adults may have different food and habitat requirements,” the statement read. “Juveniles also appear different from adults, having distinctive color patterns. Finding this ghost shark will help us better understand the biology and ecology of this mysterious group of deep-sea fish.”