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Watch Rare Footage of the Bizarre ‘Ghost Shark’ in the Wild

As if patchwork skin and dead eyes isn’t weird enough, these animals have also evolved retractable sex organs on their foreheads.
Image: 2007 MBARI

The deep sea is notorious for producing a menagerie of otherworldly creatures, exemplified by the elusive chimaera, or "ghost shark," as it has been nicknamed (not to be confused with the 2013 sharksploitation filmGhost Shark directed by Griff Furst).

Closely related to sharks and rays, these chimaeras haunt the deep, dark ocean with their spectral sheen, dead eyes, and patchwork facial skin. Even more bizarre, male ghost sharks are endowed with retractable sex organs located on their foreheads, making them the literal dickheads of the sea.

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If you're having trouble picturing these weirdos, fret not. For the first time ever, scientists have captured video footage of a pointy-nosed blue chimaera (aka ratfish), a species of ghost shark, hanging out in its natural environment. Behold, one of the most surreal and mysterious lifeforms on the planet.

This chance encounter was recorded by a remote-controlled submersible back in 2009, and was recently released to the public by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). The animal was spotted at a depth of 6,700 feet off the coast of California—a rare, fleeting glimpse that has generated a burst of research into the taxonomical background and geographic range of ghost sharks, including a MBARI-led paper published in the journal Marine Biodiversity Letters in October 2016.

READ MORE: This Rare Video of a Greenland Shark Is a Metaphor for Scientific Progress

"Similar looking, but as yet unidentified, ghost sharks have also been seen off the coasts of South America and Southern Africa, as well as in the Indian Ocean," said MBARI public information specialist Kim Fulton-Bennett in a statement.

"If these animals turn out to be the same species as the ghost sharks recently identified off California, it will be further evidence that, like many deep-sea animals, the pointy-nosed blue chimaera can really get around."

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