A team of scientists from the Seattle Aquarium and the University of Florida is headed to the Pacific Northwest to try and unlock some of the mystery surrounding the elusive ghost shark, or as they are properly known, the Pacific spotted ratfish, Hydrolagus collie.
These mysterious creatures are related to rays and sharks, although they diverged from them over 400 million years ago. The fish, formally known as chimeras, is one of the most poorly understood since they live in incredibly deep waters and are rarely studied. However, they come to shallow water to feed and breed in the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington State, where the researchers hope to study them.
Commenting on the study, Gareth Fraser, an assistant professor of biology at UF, stated:
“We know very little about these elusive relatives of sharks and even less about their spawning habits and embryonic development. We will deploy ROVs to try to find where these ghost sharks lay their eggs. If we can locate their embryos, we can begin to learn about the developmental processes that lead to some weird morphologies, or biological characteristics, unique to these fishes.”
“We think they use this head clasper like a second ‘jaw’ on their head to bite down and attach to the female during copulation. Ghost sharks are a very strange group of shark relatives whose biology makes them a bit other-worldly. When we get a chance to find these obscure fish where they feed and breed, we have to go for it. We found a lot of different stages of the fish last year, from newly hatched babies to fully mature adults, so this year, we’re going back to find their nursery grounds.”