Ghost sharks are some of the oldest known creatures on Earth. They are believed to have split off from sharks and rays about 300 million years ago, which makes them even older than dinosaurs. Unfortunately, little is known about them. Now scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have released the first ever footage of the ghost shark, which has gone viral.

Ghost Shark
Image Source: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute / YouTube Video (screenshot)

The ghost shark was filmed in 2009

The mysterious creature was filmed swimming in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii in 2009. It took marine biologists about seven years to conclude that the creature on the film was indeed a pointy-nosed blue ratfish Hydrologous trolli, also known as the ghost shark. Researchers noted that the ghost shark thrives off the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, and Africa.

However, the footage was captured in the waters off of California and Hawaii, which indicates that the deep-sea animal’s habitat range has extended. Its sighting was a bit of “dumb luck.” Dave Ebert, program director at the Pacific Shark Research Center, told National Geographic that people normally wouldn’t be looking around in this area.

Their sex organs are located on their head

In 2009, geologists at the MBARI sent remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) on several dives up to a depth of 6700 feet. They were not looking for ghost sharks. But one of the ROVs kept running into a ghost shark. Since the creature is not known to frequent these regions, MBARI geologists reached out to Dave Ebert at the Pacific Shark Research Center for analysis of the video.

The MBARI said in a statement that similar looking ghost sharks have also been spotted off the coasts of southern Africa, South America, as well as in the Indian Ocean. However, they have not been identified as yet. The ghost shark feasts on worms and molluscs. They have winged-fins and dead eyes. But the weirdest thing about ghost sharks is that their sex organs are located on their head.

Ghost shark isn’t shy of the camera

Scientists found the animal’s attraction to camera “a little comical.” Most deep-sea creatures aren’t particularly attracted to bright lights. But the ghost shark was seen bouncing its nose off the ROV camera lens, swiming around and then coming back to the camera. Though ghost sharks have been known to scientists for a long time, it was the first time they have been seen alive in their natural habitat.

Ghost sharks are too fast, large, and agile to be captured and brought back to the surface by ROVs. Scientists can’t perform a DNA test or take detailed measurements of their fins and other body parts without bringing one of them to the surface.