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Ghost Shark Facts

Ghost shark profile.

It’s well known that adapting to the deep ocean makes animals weird, and Chimaera , widely known as ghost sharks are no exception. For one thing, they are not actually sharks!

They do belong to the same taxonomic class, but their most recent shared ancestor is thought to have existed in the mind-bogglingly ancient Devonian period- around 200 million years before the evolution of flowering plants!

Ghost Shark (chimaera) Facts

Ghost Shark Facts Overview

Chimaeras are commely referred to as ghost sharks , but they are also sometimes called spookfish, rat fish, rabbit fish and even elephant fish due to their rather odd-looking appearances throughout their different species .

‘ Chimaera ’ is a common name given for cartilaginous fish belonging to the subclass Holocephali of the class Chondrichthyes, which includes the sharks, skates and rays – who are ghost sharks closest living relatives today.

Once a highly diverse subclass , extant species within Holocephali now only exist within a single order , Chimaeriformes, which itself is separated into three families : Callorhinchidae (plough-nosed chimaeras), Rhinochimaeridae (long-nosed chimaeras) and Chimaeridae (short-nosed chimaeras, the type family of the order). There are currently around 50 extant chimaeras, accounting for around 4% of chondrichthyan species, but more are still occasionally being discovered.

Ghost sharks are specialist deep water dwellers spending most of their time between 400 – 2,000 meters, gliding slowly over the seabed in search of invertebrate prey.

They like to diet on crabs, shellfish and sea urchins.

They resemble sharks in some ways including internal fertilization of females and electroreception to find prey. However, they also differ with retractable sexual appendages on the forehead, gill covers akin to bony fish, and they are without a sharks razor sharp rows of replaceable teeth.

Most chimaeras as listed as ‘ least concern’ by the IUCN, however, Silver chimaera and Rabbitfish are listed as Vulnerable and in general they are all largely understudied.

Interesting Ghost Shark Facts

1. they are the among the oldest fish in the ocean.

They have the slowest evolving genome of all known invertebrates. That’s why many of their characteristics seem out of place against other oceanic species.

In fact, ghost sharks belong to the only group of fish with true nostrils! 1

Ghost Shark

2. Some ghost fish are known as ‘rat fish’ and ‘elephant fish’

Rat fish have a long rodent like tail, and teeth like a rodent.

Rat Fish

While elephant fish has a snout that looks like a bit like a trunk (if you squint).

Elephant Fish!

3. Ghost sharks are invertebrate connoisseurs

Chimaeras are equipped with specialised teeth to suit their diet of benthic invertebrates.

Instead of pointed cutting teeth like those found in sharks, chimaeras have three pairs of continually growing tooth plates on the roof of the mouth and lower jaw that allow them to chow down on tough shells and carapaces with ease. 2

4. Their teeth have a unique mineral composition

Chimaera teeth are made up of a hyper-mineralised tissue called pleromin that, uniquely among vertebrates, contains the mineral whitlocke.

It is thought that this unique mineralisation contributes to the extraordinary hardness of their grinding tooth plates.

5. They have no scales

Unlike other chondrichthyans, whose bodies are covered in tiny, drag-reducing tooth-like scales, chimaeras entirely lack scales over the majority of their bodies.

Only males have any scales to speak of, and only on their reproductive organs.

6. Their eyes are backed with a reflective tissue layer

This makes them seem to glow in the dark and adds to their ghost-like appearance, but their reflective tissue and large eyes helps them absorb more light in the very dark deep sea.

Ghost Shark reflective eyes

7. Ghost sharks have an unusual method of propulsion

Chimaeras have enlarged pectoral fins that they ‘flap’ to propel themselves through the water.

Their tails mainly function as rudders, but they can be used to produce a burst of speed when the chimaera needs to escape predators.

8. They have a venomous defensive weapon

Positioned just in front of the dorsal fin of most chimaeras is a vicious spine with a groove running down its centre and a venom gland seated at its base.

These spines are designed to pierce the mouths of hungry predators, and are reported to cause excruciating pain by unfortunate humans who have had a close encounter on the business end. 3

9. They have no stomachs

Chimaeras have a simplified digestive system which does not include a well defined stomach.

Their oesophagus connects to a unique digestive tube that is not separated into a discreet stomach and intestine, and this tube has an unusual helicoidal internal structure that directs ingested food in a spiral to maximise surface contact as it is digested. 4

10. Their evolutionary origins are mysterious

Chimaera fossils are very rare, and this makes puzzling out their phylogeny very difficult.

There’s a rather large timeline to fill in, too- they are thought to have diverged from other chondrichthyans around 400 million years ago!

Ghost Shark deep sea

11. Vision plays a large part in their survival

Despite living in near total darkness for most or all of their lives, chimaeras have highly sensitive eyes that are heavily specialised towards picking up movement.

Achieving this in such dark environments has required a trade off; chimaeras have a low visual resolution and lack colour vision. 5

12. Ghost sharks can sense electric fields

Like other chondrichthyans, chimaeras possess specialised sense organs called electroreceptors which allow them to sense the tiny electric currents produced by the muscles of other organisms.

These electroreceptors are seated in tiny pores which are clustered around the underside of the head, and they allow the chimaera to accurately aim its jaws at its prey.

Ghost Shark up close!

13. Trawling is the main threat faced by ghost sharks

Chimaeras are commonly brought up in deep ocean trawl nets as bycatch.

Some vessels keep them for their liver oil, which is used in some cosmetics, but even chimaeras which are thrown back rarely survive the rapid changes in pressure from the ordeal.

14. Their reproductive strategy puts them at risk from humans

Chimaeras have a “k-selected” reproductive strategy, meaning that they invest heavily in producing small numbers of well developed young rather than millions of tiny, larval offspring.

This results in higher individual survival of young chimaeras in their challenging deep-sea environment, but it renders their populations vulnerable since they cannot recover quickly from rapid reduction in their numbers.

Ghost Shark Fact-File Summary

Scientific classification, fact sources & references.

  • “ The Mysterious Ghost Shark “, Natural World Facts via YouTube, 2020.
  • Iijima, M. and Ishiyama, M. (2020). A unique mineralization mode of hypermineralized pleromin in the tooth plate of Chimaera phantasma contributes to its microhardness. Scientific Reports, [online] 10(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-020-75545-0.
  • Hayes, A.J. and Sim, A.J.W. (2011). Ratfish (Chimaera) spine injuries in fishermen. Scottish Medical Journal, [online] 56(3), pp.161–163. doi:10.1258/smj.2011.011115.
  • Di Giacomo, E. and Perier, M. (1996). Feeding habits of cockfish, Callorhinchus callorhynchus (Holocephali: Callorhynchidae), in Patagonian waters (Argentina). Marine and Freshwater Research, [online] 47(6), p.801. doi:10.1071/mf9960801.
  • Garza-Gisholt, E., Hart, Nathan S. and Collin, Shaun P. (2018). Retinal Morphology and Visual Specializations in Three Species of Chimaeras, the Deep-Sea R. pacifica and C. lignaria, and the Vertical Migrator C. milii (Holocephali). Brain, Behavior and Evolution, [online] 92(1-2), pp.47–62. doi:10.1159/000490655.

Ghost Shark Caught on Camera for the First Time

Dive deep deep down into the ocean , long past the point where the sun’s rays can penetrate, and you will enter the realm of the ghost sharks.

Also called chimaeras, ghost sharks are dead-eyed, wing-finned fish rarely seen by people.

Relatives of sharks and rays, these deep-sea denizens split off from these other groups some 300 million years ago. Even though ghost sharks have been gliding through the depths since long before the dinosaurs, we still know very little about them. Now, video recently released by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California has shined new light on these mysterious creatures.

In 2009, the institute sent a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, on several dives to depths of up to 6,700 feet in waters off California and Hawaii. They weren’t looking for ghost sharks: “The guys doing the video were actually geologists,” says Dave Ebert , program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. ( See more amazing shark pictures .)

“Normally, people probably wouldn’t have been looking around in this area, so it’s a little bit of dumb luck,” he says.

One fish the ROV kept running into looked like a new ghost shark , since it did not resemble ghost shark species known to frequent either of these regions.

To find out its identity, the institute reached out to Ebert and other chimaera experts. The team analyzed the video and now believe it's a pointy-nosed blue chimaera ( Hydrolagus trolli ), a species usually found near Australia and New Zealand, according to a recent study in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records .

Though the ghost shark is not new to science, it's still exciting: The video is the first time the pointy-nosed blue chimaera has been seen alive in its natural habitat.

Uncovering Lost Sharks

If Ebert and colleagues are correct, the video is also the first discovery of this species in the Northern Hemisphere.

But they can't be sure unless they get DNA from an actual specimen, which is not easy. Ebert will scour local fish markets for new specimens, but one of the best—and only—ways is to use a trawling boat to scrape the depths. (The fish is usually dead by the time it makes it back up to the surface.)

Even without a physical specimen, the video has provided a wealth of information. First, unlike many creatures of the deep, pointy nosed blue chimaera seemed to be a ham for the ROV's camera and its bright lights. ( See more pictures of odd deep-sea animals .)

“It’s almost a little comical,” says Ebert. “It would come up and bounce its nose off the lens and swim around and come back.”

In addition, rocky outcrops in the background of the video suggest that pointy-nosed blue chimaeras prefer this habitat to the flat, soft-bottom terrain that's usually the domain of other ghost shark species, says Ebert, a specialist in what he calls lost sharks , or species that don’t tend to garner the attention of great white sharks and hammerheads .

Unlike those more well-known sharks, chimaeras don’t have rows of ragged teeth, but instead munch up their prey—mollusks, worms, and other bottom-dwellers—with mineralized tooth plates.

A pattern of open channels on their heads and faces, called lateral line canals, contain sensory cells that sense movement in the water and help the ghost sharks locate lunch.

And perhaps most fascinating, male chimaeras sport retractable sex organs on their foreheads. (Also see " Two-Headed Sharks Keep Popping Up—No One Knows Why .")

"Water Bunnies"

At least three other species of chimaera likely live across the world's oceans, so it's not that surprising that the pointy-nosed blue would as well, says Dominique Didier , a marine biologist and chimaera expert at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

“The only way we can collect these species is by trawling,” she says. “So, it's like a snapshot. Imagine trying to understand species distribution in Lake Michigan and you sample the lake using a Dixie cup. Trawling the ocean is like that.”

“I suspect many species are wide-ranging—we just don't have the data.”

Whether you call them chimaeras, ghost sharks, ratfish, or even “water bunnies”—which is what Hydrolagus roughly means in Greek—the fish “are just one of the many beautiful and poorly studied species that shares this planet with us," Didier says.

Follow Jason Bittel on  Twitter  and  Facebook .

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Trending Today

Watch Rare Footage of the Mysterious Ghost Shark Gliding Through the Deep

Researchers spotted the grey-blue creature off the coast of California—far from its usual haunts in the Southern hemisphere

Maya Wei-Haas

Maya Wei-Haas

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The video of a bizarre-looking ghostly pale deep-sea creature has been making waves across the internet this weekend. The pointy-nosed blue chimaera, also known as the ghost shark, was lurking just over a mile below the ocean surface off the coast of central California when it was caught on camera in a new video released by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Jason Bittel reports for National Geographic . Though these creatures ( Hydrolagus trolli ) are common in the deep waters near Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, according to a press release , this was the first sighting of this particular species in the Northern Hemisphere.

Similar to its namesake (the mythological goat-lion-serpent hybrid), the pointy-nosed chimaera sports an odd mash-up of features. Like sharks, the chimaera's body isn’t supported by bones, but a skeleton of stiff but flexible cartilage. But unlike sharks, they have tooth plates in lieu of teeth and open channels running around their heads, The Guardian   reports. Though these channels help them sense water movement—and their next meal—they also give the creatures a Frankenstein's monster-esque appearance. (Having a retractable penis atop their head doesn't help dispel the image.)

Chimaeras split from sharks and rays roughly 300 million years, reports Bittel. And are surprisingly widespread today, with 38 known species worldwide. But there is still much to learn about the curious creatures.

This particular chimaera was captured on video from a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on an 2009 expedition. At the time, the researchers weren’t quite sure what they were looking at. The ghost shark gliding through the screen differed from the two endemic to this region.

They consulted three different chimaera experts who came to the conclusion that the creature is likely the pointy-nosed blue chimaera. They recently published their results in the journal of Marine Biodiversity Records .

“Normally, people probably wouldn’t have been looking around in this area, so it’s a little bit of dumb luck,” Dave Ebert, program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and one of the experts who reviewed the video, tells Bittel.

It’s also possible that the ranges of these denizens of the deep are much larger than previously thought, according to the  press release . So the appearance of the ghost shark so far from previously documented habitats is not necessarily surprising.

“I suspect many species are wide-ranging—we just don't have the data,” Dominique Didier , a marine biologist at Millersville University, tells Bittel.

Though the creature’s identification is not airtight without DNA confirmation, Bittel writes, the video is the first step to learning more about these enigmatic creatures that silently glide through the ocean’s depths.

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Maya Wei-Haas

Maya Wei-Haas | | READ MORE

Maya Wei-Haas is a freelance science writer who specializes in geology of Earth and beyond. Her work has been featured in  National Geographic, News from Science,  and   AGU’s  EOS.

Smithsonian Ocean

Ghost shark.

Ghost shark swimming

When is a shark not a shark? When it’s a ghost shark! These creatures are actually chimaeras—cartilaginous fishes that are related to sharks but distinguished by several differences, including having only one gill on either side of the body. Inhabitants of deep water, chimaeras can grow more than six feet long depending on the species. Their eyes are backed with a reflective tissue layer that makes them seem to glow in the dark, contributing to an eerie—even ghostlike—appearance. This video gives you a rare glimpse of a ghost shark swimming around on a seamount.

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The Elusive Ghost Shark – Unlocking Secrets of One of the Strangest Deep-Sea Creatures

By University of Florida August 2, 2023

Ghost Shark

A ghost shark, formally called chimaera. Credit: University of Florida

This summer, a team of researchers from the University of Florida and the Seattle Aquarium is plunging 100 meters beneath the waves in the Pacific Northwest to investigate the enigmatic ghost sharks, one of the ocean’s strangest deep-sea creatures.

The scientists are utilizing Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs) in their quest to locate the breeding habitats of the Pacific spotted ratfish, Hydrolagus colliei , a ghostlike fish that lurks on the ocean floor.

“We know very little about these elusive relatives of sharks and even less about their spawning habits and embryonic development,” said Gareth Fraser, an assistant professor of biology at UF, before leaving for the expedition. “We will deploy ROVs to try to find where these ghost sharks lay their eggs.”

Related to sharks and rays but separated by nearly 400 million years of evolution, ghost sharks — formally called chimaeras — are one of the most enigmatic and understudied group of fishes, Fraser said. They typically live in deep waters, which is why scientists don’t know much about them. However, there are a few places in the world, including in the Salish Sea along the coast of Washington, where chimaeras will come into more shallow waters to breed and feed, especially during the summer months.

“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,” Fraser said.

Gareth Fraser

UF biologist Gareth Fraser holds a ghost shark. Credit: University of Florida

For example, chimaeras have big round eyes like a rabbit that allow them to see as they creep in the dark hunting for food. They have ever-growing tooth plates like a rodent, which is why they are often called ratfish. While shark skin is covered in teeth, chimaeras have no teeth on their skin, and the males have a giant bulb on their forehead called a tenaculum that grows spiky teeth that look like shark teeth.

“We think they use this head clasper like a second ‘jaw’ on their head to bite down and attach to the female during copulation,” Fraser explained. “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.”

Ghost Shark Tenanculum

The ghost shark male has a giant bulb on its forehead called a tenaculum. Credit: University of Florida

Fraser and others across the globe have had success in the last year with deep-water trawling projects locating adult ghost sharks, but studying older fish doesn’t shed much light on their developmental processes. This summer’s underwater search for the ghost shark nesting areas is the first of its kind for this species .

“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,” Fraser said.

Karly Cohen

UF biologist Karly Cohen operates the ROV from a pier in Seattle. Credit: University of Florida

The ghost shark exploration project is supported through funds from a National Science Foundation grant focused on the skin teeth of sharks and Fraser’s UF start-up grant. The team hopes to uncover secrets about the origins of teeth, which could help them learn more about how to regrow human teeth.

The four-day expedition began June 11 in Seattle, with the team on a pier operating the ROV, which is essentially an underwater drone, that traveled about 10 meters deep in search of the ghost shark nesting sites.

In the coming weeks, the team will deploy the ROV about 100 meters deep from a boat in Elliot Bay in Puget Sound, and other sites around the San Juan Islands. Covered in cameras that will deliver 360-degree views, the ROV will capture images designed to create a virtual reality scene of the depths of the ocean for scientists once they are back in the lab.

“This will take us to the waters off Washington state so that we can swim with these ghost sharks virtually and get an up-close, panoramic view of their environment,” Fraser said.

Karly Cohen, a UF biology postdoctoral fellow in the Fraser Lab who originally located the potential ghost shark nursing sites, said their project is an excellent opportunity to help strengthen conservation efforts.

“It’s important to learn about these understudied deep-water fish and their reproductive strategies,” she said. “Ultimately, we want to protect this really charismatic species.”

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

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Mysterious 'Ghost Shark' Found for 1st Time in Northern Hemisphere

Ghost shark

An elusive "ghost shark" has come out of hiding, as video has captured footage of the fish — whose face looks as if it were stitched together in a Frankenstein-like manner — for the first time in the Northern Hemisphere.

"It's a bizarre-looking fish with a pointed snout," said Lonny Lundsten, a senior research technician at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California. "It has a long, pointed, tapering tail, relatively large eyes, [and] it's almost entirely grayish-blue."

The rare, deep-sea fish — called a "ghost shark" for its appearance, but also known as the pointy-nosed blue ratfish — made its video debut after researchers recorded the animal via remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) off the coasts of Hawaii and California. The videos, six in all, provide the first evidence that this species of ratfish lives in the Northern Hemisphere, Lundsten told Live Science. [ See Photos of the Bizarre Fish and Other Freaky-Looking Fish ]

The videos were taken between 2000 and 2007, but it was only in October that researchers published the findings in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records , said Lundsten, who co-authored the study with two of his colleagues.

The first three videos, taken in 2000, were recorded before scientists had even identified the fish. It wasn't until 2002 that another group of scientists introduced the species to the scientific world, publishing in the journal Cybium . They named the fish Hydrolagus trolli in honor of Ray Troll, an Alaskan science illustrator who often draws marine animal discoveries.

Despite naming the newfound species, researcher Dominique Didier, a professor of biology at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, had never seen a live specimen. Instead, she and her colleague studied 23 dead H. trolli specimens caught as bycatch by trawlers (deep-sea fishing boats that catch marine animals with large nets) in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. These fish were all found in the Southern Hemisphere off the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia , and the Lord Howe Rise (a deep-sea plateau) and Norfolk Ridge formations, Lundsten said.

But Didier did get a chance to see the MBARI videos and confirmed that the fish in the footage with wing-like fins were likely H. trolli , Lundsten said.

Fishy videos

Little is known about H. trolli , because it lives so deep underwater — between 1 mile and 1.3 miles (1,640 to 2,063 meters) under the surface, Lundsten said. Luckily, the videos have helped the researchers gather more clues about these ghost sharks , which measure between 2 feet and 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 m) long.

For instance, the videos show H. trolli swimming over a rocky seafloor, rather than soft sediment, "which is unusual for ratfishes," Lundsten said. "[Ratfishes] are typically found above soft sediment, and the fact that these live in a rocky habitat is unique to this group."

Lundsten added that H. trolli's Frankenstein-like stiches are actually sensory organs that cover the fish's entire body, especially its face. These organs can sense minute movements and vibrations in the surrounding water, which helps the fish hunt prey, said Dave Ebert, who co-authored the study with Lundsten and Amber Reichert, a graduate student of marine science at California State University (Cal State). Ebert is also the program director of the Pacific Shark Research Center at Cal State's Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

In addition, male ratfish "have a strange sexual-related organ that's on the top of their head," Lundsten said. "It's a club-shaped thing that has spines on it, and it's used for grasping and better positioning the female during copulation." [The 9 Weirdest Animal Penises]

Ratfish history

Ratfishes have cartilaginous skeletons, indicating they're related to rays and sharks . Just like their relatives, ratfishes have a long history. Paleontologists have found ratfish fossil remains dating from about 350 million to 375 million years ago, showing that the fishes predate the dinosaur age, Didier told Live Science in March 2016.

Earlier this year, another type of ratfish, known as a knifenose chimaera ( Harriotta raleighana ), caught the public's attention when one ended up in the bycatch of a fishing boat off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada.

Moreover, there are likely more unknown ratfish out there, Ebert said. Since 2002, researchers have discovered 19 new ratfish species, including the Pacific black ghost shark ( Hydrolagus melanophasma ), captured on video in the Gulf of California, Mexico, by MBARI in 2003.

Original article on Live Science .

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Laura Geggel

Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.

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Watch: Mysterious ghost shark captured on camera for the first time

ghost shark mass

Like its Greek mythological namesake, the chimaera — or “ghost shark” — is a mysterious, rarely seen creature with a patchwork of bizarre features.

Dwelling in the depths of the ocean, its eyes are pale and seemingly dead. Where teeth should be, the ghost shark uses tooth plates instead to grind food.

Their heads are lined with cryptic dots, like the remnant scars of ancient stitches. Male chimaeras have retractable sex organs — on their foreheads.

Its other nicknames — ratfish, rabbitfish, spookfish — hint at how bizarre chimaeras are in appearance.

And now, scientists believe they have captured on video a species of ghost shark that had never before been filmed live: the pointy-nosed blue chimaera.

The actual video was taken in 2009 but was only recently released by the  Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute , along with a paper by researcher Lonny Lundsten and his colleagues at the institute.

Six years ago, researchers from the nonprofit sent an ROV, or remotely operated vehicle, on several dives off the waters of central California and Hawaii.

The ROVs captured footage from depths of up to 6,700 feet. What they returned with surprised researchers: On film was what appeared to be a species of ghost shark previously only caught in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.

Record-breaking Maryland fish weighs more than the girl who caught it

According to his paper, Lundsten consulted with three chimaera experts who watched the video from the diving expeditions. All believed the fish was, in fact, a pointy-nosed blue chimaera.

Still, Lundsten and others from the Monterey Bay Aquarium institute can't be 100 percent certain that the fish captured on video is a pointy-nosed blue chimaera, despite their similar physical characteristics. Because of that, the paper refers to the fish they recorded as  Hydrolagus cf. trolli, rather than its scientific name,  Hydrolagus trolli .

To be absolutely sure, researchers would have to capture the ghost shark and bring it back to the surface, the institute said .

“This is much easier said than done, because these fish are generally too large, fast, and agile to be caught,” the institute notes. “If and when the researchers can get their hands on one of these fish, they will be able to make detailed measurements of its fins and other body parts and perform DNA analysis on its tissue.”

Doing so would either allow them to remove the “cf.” from the species description — or lead to perhaps an even more exciting alternative: that they discovered a new species of ghost shark.

This nearly 1,700-pound shark is being tracked off the Virginia coast

“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,” the institute said.

The pointy-nosed blue chimaera was first discovered by researcher Dominique Didier Dagit in 2002, in the deep waters around Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

Dagit, then an assistant curator of ichthyology at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia,  told the Associated Press in 2002  that she named her discovery Hydrolagus trolli  after Alaskan artist Ray Troll because they shared a love for ratfish.

''It's kind of nice to be able to name a species for someone,'' Dagit told the AP. ''I thought, 'Here's my chance to name a fish for someone who's really interested.' . . . It kind of looks like him, [but with] less facial hair.''

A Japanese theme park thought it was a good idea to freeze 5,000 dead fish in a skating rink

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Will Ghost Sharks Vanish Before Scientists Can Study Them?

Much remains to be learned about the cartilaginous, little understood fishes that inhabit the deep-sea.

ghost shark mass

By Annie Roth

Take one look at a ghost shark and you may say, “What’s up with that weird-looking fish?”

Over the past few decades, scientists learned that these cartilaginous fishes, also known as ratfish or Chimaeras, have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and that they have venomous spines in front of their dorsal fins and “fly” through the water by flapping their pectoral fins. They even learned that most male ghost sharks have a retractable sex organ on their foreheads that resembles a medieval mace.

However, much remains to be learned about these strange creatures. Basic biological information, like how long they live and how often they reproduce, is lacking for most of the 52 known species. The absence of this key information makes it difficult for scientists to manage and monitor ghost shark populations, even as evidence mounts that some species may be at risk of extinction.

Scientists from the Shark Specialist Group, a division of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, recently assessed the extinction risk of all confirmed ghost shark species and determined that 16 percent are “threatened” or “near threatened.” The assessment, which was published this month in the journal Fish and Fisheries, also found that 15 percent of ghost shark species are so understudied that their extinction risk cannot be determined. Now experts are concerned that certain ghost shark species might go extinct before scientists have a chance to study them.

Ghost sharks can be found in all of the world’s oceans, except the Arctic and the Antarctic. Most inhabit the deep-sea, although a handful of species inhabit shallow coastal waters. Despite their name, ghost sharks are not true sharks, though they are closely related. Unlike their shark cousins, ghost sharks have long, thin tails and large, continuously growing tooth plates that give them a rat-like appearance. Some have long skinny snouts while others sport plow-shaped ones that they use to probe seafloor sediment in search of food.

“They’ve got a face only a mother or a researcher could love,” said David Ebert, director of the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California and co-author of the assessment.

Nearly half of the species known to science were discovered only during the past two decades. “We’re just now starting to figure out that there are a lot more of these things around than we realized previously,” said Dr. Ebert, whose lab has been credited with the discovery of 11 of the 52 known ghost shark species.

Dr. Ebert is one of only a handful of scientists currently studying ghost sharks. Securing funding to study them has long been a challenge for scientists.

“Chimaeras don’t have much value commercially, so there’s not a lot of interest in getting more information about them,” said Brit Finucci, fisheries scientist at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand and lead author of the assessment. “They’re also quite cryptic, so they’re hard to find and hard to study.” Several species of ghost shark, including the Bahamas ghost shark , are known from only one specimen.

Ghost sharks are primarily caught as bycatch. While their meat is edible, the majority of their commercial value comes from their livers, which contain an oil known as squalene that’s used in a wide variety of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products .

Although they are harvested and sold all over the world, 90 percent of ghost shark species are unmanaged, according to the IUCN assessment. This means that those who catch these species are not subject to limits and are not obligated to share data about their catch.

If fishing fleets continue venturing further into the deep-sea, experts fear that some species of ghost shark could disappear before scientists even notice that they are in trouble.

“How can we start to wrap our head around keeping them from going extinct if we don’t know anything about them?” said Dominique Didier, an ichthyologist at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

In order to prevent ghost shark extinctions from occurring unnoticed, the authors argue, more scientists need to study ghost sharks, and marine authorities need to exercise more oversight and management of ghost shark fisheries around the world.

“We shouldn’t be waiting,” Dr. Finucci said. “Even though these animals are assessed with a lesser risk of extinction, we shouldn’t wait until they are actually a threatened species before we start studying them.”

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elusive ghost shark, also known as chimaeras

Ghost sharks – unraveling the mysteries of these strange and elusive sea monsters

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A team of intrepid researchers from the University of Florida and the Seattle Aquarium are poised to embark on a unique expedition this summer. Plunging a hundred meters beneath the surface of the Pacific Northwest’s waters, they aim to unravel the enigmas surrounding a denizen of the deep – the elusive ghost shark, also known as chimaeras.

The scientists, utilizing remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), will be hunting for the nesting grounds of a specific variety of ghost shark known as the Pacific spotted ratfish, or Hydrolagus colliei. Often found haunting the ocean floor, these spectral creatures have a mystique that has intrigued scientists for years.

Gareth Fraser, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Florida , is leading this daring expedition.

“We know very little about these elusive relatives of sharks and even less about their spawning habits and embryonic development,” Fraser said. He added that the goal of this mission is to use ROVs to discover where these ghostly sharks lay their eggs.

Ghost sharks, or chimaeras as they are formally called, have been separated from their shark and ray relatives by a chasm of nearly 400 million years of evolution.

What do ghost sharks look like?

This mysterious group of fish , often relegated to the ocean’s murky depths, remain one of the most understudied and enigmatic creatures. However, during the summer months, these chimaeras often frequent the more shallow waters of the Salish Sea along Washington’s coast to breed and feed.

Understanding the developmental processes of the ghost sharks could help unravel the secrets of their unique biological characteristics, or morphologies. Ghost sharks are known for their large, round, rabbit-like eyes that help them navigate in the dark. They also possess ever-growing tooth plates, much like a rodent, earning them the nickname ratfish.

Interestingly, while shark skin is covered in teeth, ghost sharks have smooth skin. Male chimaeras boast a peculiar bulb on their forehead. This is called a tenaculum, which sprouts spiky teeth that resemble those of a shark.

Fraser elucidated, “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.”

Studying these creatures is no easy task

Despite recent success in locating adult chimaeras through deep-water trawling projects, the study of mature fish has offered limited insights into their developmental processes. The upcoming exploration for ghost shark nesting areas this summer is groundbreaking – a first-of-its-kind for this species.

“Last year, we found different stages of the fish, from newly hatched babies to fully mature adults. This year, we’re going back to find their nursery grounds,” said Fraser.

The expedition was funded through a National Science Foundation grant and Fraser’s UF start-up grant. The scientists also aim to unearth clues about the origins of teeth. This knowledge could potentially unlock valuable insights for regenerative dental research in humans.

Setting out from Seattle on June 11, the team commenced their four-day expedition from a pier. The researchers piloted the ROV, essentially an underwater drone, about 10 meters deep. From there, they scoured the ocean floor for ghost shark nesting sites.

The drone, laden with cameras offering 360-degree views, will send back images to construct a virtual reality depiction of the ocean’s depths. This will offer scientists an immersive view of the ghost shark’s environment.

Fraser said, “This will take us to the waters off Washington state, so that we can swim with these ghost sharks virtually and get an up-close, panoramic view of their environment.”

For Karly Cohen, a UF biology postdoctoral fellow in the Fraser Lab, who originally identified the potential ghost shark nursing sites, this project is a golden opportunity to bolster conservation efforts.

Cohen remarked, “It’s important to learn about these understudied deep-water fish and their reproductive strategies. Ultimately, we want to protect this really charismatic species.”

More about chimaeras

Chimaeras, also known as ghost sharks, ratfish, or rabbit fish, are a unique group of fish belonging to the subclass Holocephali. They share the class Chondrichthyes with sharks and rays. This article offers a detailed examination of their unique characteristics, habitat, reproduction, and scientific significance.

The name “chimaera” originates from Greek mythology, referring to a creature composed of parts from various animals. The diverse physical attributes of chimaeras reflect this mythical association. They exhibit traits akin to several distinct animals.

For instance, their large, rabbit-like eyes, rodent-esque incisor teeth, and smooth, scaleless skin distinguish them from other marine species.

Chimaeras have several characteristics distinguishing them from their shark and ray relatives. Among these, they possess a permanent notochord, a feature present in the earliest vertebrates. Male chimaeras also display a distinctive adaptation for reproduction: retractable sexual organs on their foreheads.

Habitat and diet

Chimaeras frequent temperate ocean floors, descending to depths of up to 2,600 meters. Few species venture into shallower depths below 200 meters.

The expansive, flat heads of most species facilitate the scanning of the seafloor for food. Their diet mainly consists of small benthic invertebrates.

Physical characteristics

Chimaeras are characterized by an elongated body shape, with a bulky head and a slender, whip-like tail. Some species bear a venomous spine preceding the dorsal fin.

Their large pectoral fins resemble wings. Some species employ these in a bird-like manner for swimming, appearing to “fly” through the water.

Reproduction

Chimaeras are oviparous, or egg-laying creatures. Some chimaeras produce eggs encased in a leathery shell, often with extended filamentous tendrils.

The males display unique mating behavior. They utilize a pair of claspers (modified pelvic fins) for the transfer of sperm to the female during copulation.

Evolution and relation to sharks and rays

While grouped with sharks and rays under the class Chondrichthyes, chimaeras diverged from these relatives approximately 400 million years ago.

Similar to sharks and rays, chimaeras have skeletons composed of cartilage instead of bone.

Scientific significance

Chimaeras remain relatively understudied due to their deep-sea habitats, despite their unique traits and evolutionary history. As a subject of scientific interest, they offer fascinating insights into marine life’s diversity and development.

Their specialized characteristics, from their mating behavior to their cartilaginous skeletal structure, provide valuable opportunities for further exploration and research.

Conservation

As of 2021, conservation efforts primarily focus on expanding our understanding of these elusive creatures. The deep-water habitats of chimaeras render them relatively inaccessible.

This fact complicates scientific efforts to study their life cycles, population dynamics, and vulnerability to human activities such as deep-sea fishing. Conservation strategies will benefit from comprehensive research, enhancing our ability to protect these intriguing species.

In summary, chimaeras, with their enigmatic lifestyle and unique biological attributes, represent an exciting frontier for marine biology and evolutionary study. Although we have much to learn about these ghostly denizens of the deep, their existing data opens up a window into the vast diversity of life present within the world’s oceans.

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July 21, 2023

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Unlocking secrets of the elusive ghost shark

by Karen Dooley, University of Florida

Unlocking secrets of the elusive ghost shark

Researchers from the University of Florida and the Seattle Aquarium are exploring 100 meters underwater in the Pacific Northwest this summer to learn more about mysterious ghost sharks, one of the strangest beasts from the depths of the ocean.

Using remotely operated underwater vehicles, or ROVs, the scientists searched for nesting grounds of the Pacific spotted ratfish, Hydrolagus colliei, a ghostlike fish that lurks on the ocean floor.

"We know very little about these elusive relatives of sharks and even less about their spawning habits and embryonic development ," said Gareth Fraser, an assistant professor of biology at UF, before leaving for the expedition. "We will deploy ROVs to try to find where these ghost sharks lay their eggs."

Related to sharks and rays but separated by nearly 400 million years of evolution, ghost sharks—formally called chimeras—are one of the most enigmatic and understudied group of fishes, Fraser said. They typically live in deep waters , which is why scientists don't know much about them. However, there are a few places in the world, including in the Salish Sea along the coast of Washington, where chimeras will come into more shallow waters to breed and feed, especially during the summer months.

"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," Fraser said.

For example, chimeras have big round eyes like a rabbit that allow them to see as they creep in the dark hunting for food. They have ever-growing tooth plates like a rodent, which is why they are often called ratfish. While shark skin is covered in teeth, chimeras have no teeth on their skin, and the males have a giant bulb on their forehead called a tenaculum that grows spiky teeth that look like shark teeth.

"We think they use this head clasper like a second 'jaw' on their head to bite down and attach to the female during copulation," Fraser explained. "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."

Fraser and others across the globe have had success in the last year with deep-water trawling projects locating adult ghost sharks, but studying older fish doesn't shed much light on their developmental processes. This summer's underwater search for the ghost shark nesting areas is the first of its kind for this species.

"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," Fraser said.

The ghost shark exploration project is supported through funds from a National Science Foundation grant focused on skin teeth of sharks and Fraser's UF start-up grant. The team hopes to uncover secrets about origins of teeth, which could help them learn more about how to regrow human teeth.

The four-day expedition began June 11 in Seattle, with the team on a pier operating the ROV, which is essentially an underwater drone, that traveled about 10 meters deep in search of the ghost shark nesting sites.

In the coming weeks, the team will deploy the ROV about 100 meters deep from a boat in Elliot Bay in Puget Sound, and other sites around the San Juan Islands. Covered in cameras that will deliver 360-degree views, the ROV will capture images designed to create a virtual reality scene of the depths of the ocean for scientists once they are back in the lab.

"This will take us to the waters off Washington state, so that we can swim with these ghost sharks virtually and get an up-close, panoramic view of their environment," Fraser said.

Karly Cohen, a UF biology postdoctoral fellow in the Fraser Lab who originally located the potential ghost shark nursing sites, said their project is an excellent opportunity to help strengthen conservation efforts.

"It's important to learn about these understudied deep-water fish and their reproductive strategies," she said. "Ultimately, we want to protect this really charismatic species."

Provided by University of Florida

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Unlocking secrets of the elusive ghost shark

University of Florida

Ghost Shark

image: A ghost shark, formally called chimaera view more 

Credit: University of Florida

Researchers from the University of Florida and the Seattle Aquarium are exploring 100 meters underwater in the Pacific Northwest this summer to learn more about mysterious ghost sharks, one of the strangest beasts from the depths of the ocean.

Using remotely operated underwater vehicles, or ROVs, the scientists searched for nesting grounds of the Pacific spotted ratfish, Hydrolagus colliei , a ghostlike fish that lurks on the ocean floor.

“We know very little about these elusive relatives of sharks and even less about their spawning habits and embryonic development,” said Gareth Fraser, an assistant professor of biology at UF, before leaving for the expedition. “We will deploy ROVs to try to find where these ghost sharks lay their eggs.”

Related to sharks and rays but separated by nearly 400 million years of evolution, ghost sharks — formally called chimaeras — are one of the most enigmatic and understudied group of fishes, Fraser said. They typically live in deep waters, which is why scientists don’t know much about them. However, there are a few places in the world, including in the Salish Sea along the coast of Washington, where chimaeras will come into more shallow waters to breed and feed, especially during the summer months.

“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,” Fraser said.

For example, chimaeras have big round eyes like a rabbit that allow them to see as they creep in the dark hunting for food. They have ever-growing tooth plates like a rodent, which is why they are often called ratfish. While shark skin is covered in teeth, chimaeras have no teeth on their skin, and the males have a giant bulb on their forehead called a tenaculum that grows spiky teeth that look like shark teeth.

“We think they use this head clasper like a second ‘jaw’ on their head to bite down and attach to the female during copulation,” Fraser explained. “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.”

Fraser and others across the globe have had success in the last year with deep-water trawling projects locating adult ghost sharks, but studying older fish doesn’t shed much light on their developmental processes. This summer’s underwater search for the ghost shark nesting areas is the first of its kind for this species.

“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,” Fraser said.

The ghost shark exploration project is supported through funds from a National Science Foundation grant focused on skin teeth of sharks and Fraser’s UF start-up grant. The team hopes to uncover secrets about origins of teeth, which could help them learn more about how to regrow human teeth.

The four-day expedition began June 11 in Seattle, with the team on a pier operating the ROV, which is essentially an underwater drone, that traveled about 10 meters deep in search of the ghost shark nesting sites.

In the coming weeks, the team will deploy the ROV about 100 meters deep from a boat in Elliot Bay in Puget Sound, and other sites around the San Juan Islands. Covered in cameras that will deliver 360-degree views, the ROV will capture images designed to create a virtual reality scene of the depths of the ocean for scientists once they are back in the lab.

“This will take us to the waters off Washington state, so that we can swim with these ghost sharks virtually and get an up-close, panoramic view of their environment,” Fraser said.

Karly Cohen, a UF biology postdoctoral fellow in the Fraser Lab who originally located the potential ghost shark nursing sites, said their project is an excellent opportunity to help strengthen conservation efforts.

“It’s important to learn about these understudied deep-water fish and their reproductive strategies,” she said. “Ultimately, we want to protect this really charismatic species.”

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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Sea Wonder: Ghost Shark

ghost shark mass

Photo Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U. S. Canyons Expedition

Their name suggests an otherworldliness, but we promise you ghost sharks – which are actually not sharks at all – are more amazing than they are spooky! They are, however, quite mysterious and elusive like ghosts. 

Description

Ghost sharks are also called spookfish, ratfishes, or rabbitfishes due to their oddly shaped heads, ghastly coloration, and eerie, large black eyes. However, they aren’t sharks, they are part of a group of cartilaginous fish called chimaeras. They are related to sharks but genetically diverged from their shark relatives nearly 400 million years ago. At least 38 known species of ghost sharks occupy the world’s ocean, the newest of which was discovered in 2009 in the Gulf of California, called the Eastern Pacific Black Ghost Shark .

Ghost sharks have long tapering bodies and incredibly large heads. Their skin ranges in color from black to pale blue to brownish grey and is quite smooth. They have large eyes, oversized nostrils, and large, visible teeth, which give them a rabbit-like appearance, though within their mouths are three tooth plates. On their snouts are small club-shaped structures, atop their bodies are two dorsal fins, on the side are two pectoral fins for movement, and a dorsal fin is at the end of their tail. Their large, high-set eyes give off a green-ish glow due to a reflective tissue in their eyes called the tapetum lucidum, which helps vertebrates see better in low-light conditions. 

The ghost shark’s maximum observed length is about 49 inches, but scientists believe they can grow to be more than six feet in some cases. 

Diet & Habitat

Ghost sharks are difficult to observe since they occupy the deep sea, but we know they occupy most of the world’s ocean except for Antarctic waters. They live at depths ranging from 200 meters to 2,600 meters and generally stay close to the seafloor. 

These sharks use sensory organs on the club-like projection on their snouts to find prey in the dark waters in which they live. Using these organs, they can sense movement and weak electrical fields. Their diet primarily consists of shellfish, mollusks, and worms that live on or under the seafloor. Their dental plates help them catch, crush, and swallow their prey. Larger sharks are natural predators of ghost sharks. 

Life History

Ghost sharks are oviparous reproducers, which means they release fertilized egg cases into the water during the spring months. These egg cases are golden yellow in color and settle onto the ocean’s sandy or muddy floor depending on where in the ocean they are. Incubation takes about 8 months, during which time the embryos feed on the yolk of their individual eggs. Before hatching, the egg cases appear black or brown. When ghost shark pups hatch, they are about six inches long and they spend time in shallower water nurseries before moving to deeper waters as they grow. The maximum lifespan of a ghost shark is thought to be about 15 years and males reach maturity about a year earlier than females.

Ghost sharks are thought to be solitary animals as they are generally observed alone.

Threats & Conservation   

Chimaeras and ghost sharks around the world are sometimes a target fishery species, usually in coastal waters. They are also caught as bycatch when deep-sea nets are used. With little knowledge of these animals, it is difficult for scientists and managers to understand their population health and create policy to help with management and conservation. Knowing their diet and habitat, we can assume climate change and ocean acidification are significant threats to the species. 

ghost shark mass

Photo Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program; Our Deepwater Backyard

To figure out how ghost sharks evolved, scientists virtually reconstructed an ancient shark brain

The more than 280-million-year-old skull was from an ancient relative of today’s ghost sharks.

By Rachel Becker

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A fossilized shark skull that’s more than 280 million years old could be a missing evolutionary link between sharks, and their strange deep-sea relatives known as ghost sharks. That’s not all: by virtually reconstructing the ancient shark’s brain, the researchers discovered that modern day ghost sharks are more distantly related to today’s sharks than we thought.

The ancient skull is a missing evolutionary link

The skull belonged to an extinct type of shark called a symmoriiform that roamed the oceans around 330 million years ago. A group of researchers led by evolutionary biologist Michael Coates with the University of Chicago discovered that the skull contains a weird mix of traits from both ghost sharks, and primitive sharks. Their findings, published today in the journal Nature , suggests that the group of fish that gave rise to ghost sharks branched off from the group that evolved into sharks more than 359 million years ago , which is when a mass extinction killed off 75 percent of life on Earth. That’s much earlier than previous estimates of 334 million years ago.

Ghost sharks went viral at the end of December after the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute released a video of an elusive, wayward species that typically swims around Australia and New Zealand. Researchers caught this one on camera with an underwater drone off the coast of California, more than two miles beneath the ocean’s surface. It was the first time this particular species has been captured on video, and the first time it’s been seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

Watch Coates explain his team’s discovery:

Today’s ghost sharks probably look a lot like the ghost sharks of 340 million years ago, Coates said in a video . They’re closely related to the family of fishes that include sharks, skates, and rays . But they have unusual skulls with massive eye sockets, and on their skin there is a patchwork of grooves filled with sensory cells. Instead of teeth , ghost sharks mash their food on hardened tooth plates, kind of like a platypus .

The discovery came from the serendipitous convergence of modern technology, and old bones. A strange, primitive symmoriiform skull had been sitting in the South African Museum since the 1980s, and its oddness had bothered Coates for years. His colleague took a CT scan of the fossil — using the same technology that lets doctors check living patients for concussions to see inside the ancient skull. From the CT scan, they were able to virtually reconstruct the shape of the shark’s brain. They discovered even though the outside of the skull looked like that of the primitive shark, a central part of the brainstem was elevated, like a ghost shark’s. And the eye sockets were massive — an adaptation that helps today’s ghost sharks see in the dim light of the deep ocean.

So, the ancient brain of a symmoriiform looked a lot like a ghost shark brain. That means that symmoriiforms and ghost sharks probably shared a common ancestor that branched off from the ancestors of today’s sharks and rays earlier than we thought. The fact that both the symmoriiform and ghost sharks have massive eyes is a clue that their common ancestor started the process of adapting to life in deeper waters, where the ghost sharks have stayed ever since.

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Callorhinchus milii Elephant fish (Also: Ghost shark; Plownose chimaera; Reperepe; Silver fish)

Geographic Range

Callorhincus milii , also known as elephant fishes, elephant sharks, ghost sharks, or whitefish, have a fairly selective range. Found in the South Pacific, they prefer the continental shelves of temperate waters. They are primarily found along the southern coast of Australia, and in the waters surrounding Tasmania and New Zealand. There are a few reports of them in the rivers of South Africa and Tasmania, and along the southwestern coast of South America. ( Allen, 1999 ; Last and Stevens, 2009 )

  • Biogeographic Regions

Although mostly found in shallow waters 30 to 200 m in depth, elephant fishes have also been found at depths of greater than 600 m. C. milii primarily live on coastal continental shelves, but females seasonally move to shallower waters to lay eggs. ( Allen, 1999 ; Ferrari and Ferrari, 2002 ; Reardon, et al., 2003 )

  • Habitat Regions
  • saltwater or marine
  • Aquatic Biomes
  • Range depth 0 to 600 m 0.00 to 1968.50 ft
  • Average depth 30-200 m ft

Physical Description

Callorhinchus milii are silver in color, and often have irregular dark blotches on the sides and fins. They have a distinctive flexible, trunk-like projection at the tip of the snout. This “trunk” has earned them the name elephant fishes or elephant sharks despite the fact that they neither true fish nor shark. C. milii is a type of chimaera , a cartilaginous fish related to sharks and rays. Other characteristics include an elongate body, presence of an anal fin, an arched caudal fin, and two widely spaced dorsal fins. The first fin has a serrated spine at its front, and the second is relatively tall with a short base compared to other chimaera species. Mature males exhibit a unique head clasper, an erupted tenaculum on a pre-pelvic clasper, and large calcified pelvic claspers.

A feature unique to elephant fishes ( Callorhincidae ) that should be noted is that unlike all other chimaera species, they have a very well developed rectal gland. The rectal gland is crucial in regulating osmotic conditions in the body of the fish. It is thought that since elephant fishes migrate for mating and may encounter water with varying salinity, they developed a rectal gland superior to that of other chimaeras. While all other chimera species are found in deep water habitats, this adaptation may allow elephant fishes to successfully inhabit more shallow coastal waters. ( Ferrari and Ferrari, 2002 ; Francis, 1997 ; Last and Stevens, 2009 )

  • Other Physical Features
  • ectothermic
  • heterothermic
  • bilateral symmetry
  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass 3 to 4 kg 6.61 to 8.81 lb
  • Range length 10 to 120 cm 3.94 to 47.24 in

Development

Embryonic development is divided into 36 stages followed by hatching. These stages are determined by assessment of morphological characteristics including but not limited to length, amount of pigmentation, eye development, and head flexure. Rostral bulb size is used primarily when classifying embryos from stages 17-29 while tail length, gill filament size, and snout development are used to identify more mature embryo specimens. While early characteristics are more notable from one stage to the next, later stage assignment is often made more complex by less distinction between the characteristics of each stage. Hatchlings are fully developed and look just like miniature adults upon emergence from the egg case.

From the time they hatch at about 10 cm until they reach a length of approximately 50 cm, elephant fishes grow in a linear fashion. At this length males are mature. However, the female growth then accelerates to about twice the rate of males until they reach sexual maturity at about 70 cm in length. Maturity is reached in males at about 3 years of age and in females at 4 to 5 years of age. ( Didier, et al., 1998 ; Francis, 1997 ; Sullivan, 1977 )

Reproduction

Males have a pair of retractable head claspers, pre-pelvic claspers, and calcified claspers to help hold the female during copulation. The head and pre-pelvic claspers are unique to C. milii and are not found in other species of Chondrichthyes >. Females have a “sperm pouch” to store spermatic material. Actual mating behavior remains undocumented. ( Hamlett, et al., 2002 ; Last and Stevens, 2009 )

Adult fishes migrate to the shallower waters of bays and estuaries to mate between February and May. C. milii is oviparous, meaning they produce eggs that hatch outside the body. Females also have a “sperm pouch” to store spermatic material. Large, flat egg-cases containing a single embryo are deposited on muddy or sandy substrate. When released, egg-cases are yellow, but slowly turn brown or black. A female lays two eggs about a week apart that develop for 6 to 8 months. Embryos feed on the yolk until they hatch. ( Bester, 2010 ; Didier, et al., 1998 ; Francis, 1997 ; Last and Stevens, 2009 )

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • seasonal breeding
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sperm-storing
  • Breeding interval Elephant fishes are known to breed during the summer and early autumn months.
  • Breeding season Fertilization and spawning occur between February and May.
  • Range number of offspring 1 to 2
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) 4 to 5 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male) 3 (low) years

Callorhinchus milii exhibit little parental investment. Female fishes invest in egg yolk for the nourishment of the embryo, but otherwise eggs are left behind in shallow water and juveniles emerge on their own in 6 to 8 months. ( Last and Stevens, 2009 )

  • Parental Investment
  • provisioning

Lifespan/Longevity

Maximum recorded age in the wild is fifteen years from a tag return, but dorsal fin spine growth increments indicate maximum size to occur at about nine years. No age data has been recorded for C. milii in captivity. ( Reardon, et al., 2003 )

  • Range lifespan Status: wild 15 (high) years

Behavior has not been extensively observed in elephant fishes since they live in a less accessible habitat, but seasonal migration for mating has been well documented in the shallow coastal areas that are more populated by people. Elephant fishes are not known to be a social species. However, fishermen report separate catches of males and females in the same areas suggesting the sexes segregate in the wild when not reproducing. ( Hyodo, et al., 2007 ; Reardon, et al., 2003 )

  • Key Behaviors

Evidence of territorial behavior or the size of the home range has not been documented in C. milii .

Communication and Perception

Elephant fishes have large eyes, and also use their unique “trunk” for perception. It is covered with sensory pores that can detect movements and small electrical impulses. This allows the animal to find prey hidden in the substrate. Social communication between individuals has yet to be investigated. ( Last and Stevens, 2009 )

  • Communication Channels
  • Perception Channels

Food Habits

Callorhincus milli is a carnivorous species. Elephant fishes probe the substrate with the plow-shaped protrusion on their snout to find food. They primarily feed on mollusks and shellfish including the clam species Maorimactra ordinaria . ( Anonymous, 2014 )

  • Primary Diet
  • molluscivore
  • Animal Foods
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans

Callorhinchus milii is subject to predation by larger fish and sharks such as the broadnose sevengill shark ( Notorynchus cepedianus ). Elephant fishes are actively fished for food by humans as well. It's coloration is probably cryptic. ( Barnett, et al., 2010 ; Mullo, 2013 )

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • Broadnose Sevengill Shark ( Notorynchus cepedianus )

Ecosystem Roles

Elephant fishes are secondary consumers that help may affect the populations of primary consumers through predation. Although they are predators, they provide a food source for tertiary consumers as well. Elephant fishes thus play an intermediate role in the food web linking small organisms like filter feeders to large apex predators.

Callorhincus milii is susceptible to parasites like Callorhynchicola multitesticulatus and Gyrocotyle rugosa . ( Bester, 2010 ; Last and Stevens, 2009 )

  • Callorhynchicola multitesticulatus
  • Gyrocotyle rugosa

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Elephant fishes are caught both commercially and recreationally and are often marketed as "whitefish." They are often used as the fish in “fish and chips” meals in Australia and New Zealand. Recently humans are also using C. milii in genetic research as model organisms to learn more about the evolution of cartilaginous fishes and the early ancestors of all vertebrates. ( Mullo, 2013 ; Reardon, et al., 2003 ; Vankatesh, et al., 2014 )

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Elephant fishes very little threat to humans. The dorsal spine may cause injury to fisherman, but otherwise there are no known adverse effects of Callorhinchus milii on humans. ( Bester, 2010 )

Conservation Status

Callorhinchus milii is relatively abundant throughout the waters of southern Australia and New Zealand and was listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2003, the last date of review. Commercial fishing reports showed that catch rates remained stable for roughly 20 years prior to that reivew. A total allowable catch (TAC) has been imposed on C. milii in both Australia and New Zealand to limit catch numbers. Subsequent work found that some stocks in Australia were being overfished, in part due to previously undocumented recreational fishing taking breeding females near shore (Bracchini et al., 2008).

Some elephant fishes may also take refuge in marine protected areas that are closed to fishing. ( "Evaluation of effects of targeting breeding elephant fish by recreational fishers in Western Port.", 2008 ; Reardon, et al., 2003 )

  • IUCN Red List Least Concern
  • US Federal List No special status
  • CITES No special status
  • State of Michigan List No special status

Other Comments

Lately, C. milii have become a focus of genetic study. In 2013 the elephant fish became the first cartilaginous fish to have its entire genome sequenced. Cartilaginous fishes are the sister group to bony vertebrates, and elephant fishes are some of the most primitive and slowly developing of these organisms, so their genetic information can hopefully provide new insights into how jawed vertebrates evolved. The C. milii genome may also provide new information regarding bone formation and adaptive immunity in higher organisms. So far, genetic evidence has shown that humans actually share more similarities with these ancient chondrichthyans than with more modern bony fish . ( Anonymous, 2014 ; Vankatesh, et al., 2014 )

Contributors

Kayla Boyes (author), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Mark Jordan (editor), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

an animal that mainly eats meat

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

uses electric signals to communicate

union of egg and spermatozoan

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

fertilization takes place within the female's body

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

specialized for swimming

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

An aquatic biome consisting of the open ocean, far from land, does not include sea bottom (benthic zone).

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

breeding is confined to a particular season

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

uses sight to communicate

Fisheries Victoria, State of Victoria, Australia. Evaluation of effects of targeting breeding elephant fish by recreational fishers in Western Port.. ISBN: 1 74146 935. Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia: Fisheries Research Brand. 2008. Accessed July 06, 2015 at http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/fishing-and-hunting/fisheries/publications-and-resources/fisheries-reports/your-licence-fees-at-work-reports/2003-2008/evaluation-of-effects-of-targeting-breeding-elephant-fish-by-recreational-fishers-in-western-port .

Allen, T. 1999. The Shark Almanac . New York, New York: The Lyons Press.

Anonymous, 2014. "Elephant Shark (Australian Ghostshark) Callorhinchus milii " (On-line). Carnivora Forum. Accessed April 01, 2014 at http://carnivoraforum.com/topic/10017715/1/ .

Barnett, A., K. Redd, S. Frusher, J. Stevens, J. Semmens. 2010. Non-lethal method to obtain stomach samples from a large marine predator and the use of DNA analysis to improve dietary information. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology , 393: 188-192.

Bester, C. 2010. "Ghost Shark" (On-line). Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Accessed April 01, 2014 at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/ghostshark/ghostshark.html .

Didier, D., E. LeClair, D. VanBuskirk. 1998. Embryonic staging and external features of development of the chimaeroid fish, Callorhinchus milii (Holocephali, callorhinchidae). Journal of Morphology , 236: 25-47.

Ferrari, A., A. Ferrari. 2002. Sharks . Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books.

Francis, M. 1997. Spatial and temporal variation in the growth rate of elephantfish ( Callorhinchus milii ). New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research , 31: 9-23.

Hamlett, W., M. Reardon, J. Clark, T. Walker. 2002. Ultrastructure of sperm storage and male genital ducts in a male holocephalan, the elephant fish, Callorhynchus milii . Journal of Experimental Zoology , 292: 111-128.

Hyodo, S., J. Bell, J. Healy, T. Kaneko, S. Hasegawa, Y. Takei, J. Donald, T. Toop. 2007. Osmoregulation in elephant fish Callorhinchus millii (Holocephali), with special reference to rectal gland. The Journal of Experimental Biology , 210: 1303-1310.

Last, P., J. Stevens. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia . China: CSIRO Publishing, Australia.

Mullo, D. 2013. "Elephant Fish ( Callorhinchus milii )" (On-line). Wildfish. Accessed March 31, 2014 at http://wildfish.co.nz/portfolio/elephant-fish/ .

Reardon, M., T. Walker, M. Francis. 2003. " Callorhinchus milii " (On-line). www.iucnredlist.org. Accessed March 31, 2014 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41743/0 .

Sullivan, K. 1977. Age and growth of the elephant fish Callorhincus milii (Elasmobranchii: Callorhynchidae). New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research , 11 (4): 745-753.

Vankatesh, B., A. Lee, V. Ravi, A. Maurya, M. Lian, J. Swann, Y. Ohta, M. Flajnik, Y. Sutoh, M. Kasahara, S. Hoon, V. Gangu, S. Roy, M. Irimia, V. Korzh, I. Kondrychyn, Z. Lim, B. Tay, S. Tohari, K. Kong, S. Ho, B. Lorente-Galdos, J. Quilez, T. Marques-Bonet, B. Raney. 2014. Elephant shark genome provides unique insights into gnathostome evolution. Nature , 505: 174-179.

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To cite this page: Boyes, K. 2015. "Callorhinchus milii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 13, 2024 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Callorhinchus_milii/

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This Is Australia’s Testbed For Its Upcoming ‘Ghost Shark’ Unmanned Combat Submarines

The Ghost Shark unmanned underwater vehicle will eventually be the size of a school bus and offer both surveillance and attack capabilities.

Royal Australian Navy's Ghost Shark drone submarine

Anduril Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of defense technology company Anduril Industries, is showing off the testbed it will use to develop the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) future extra-large drone submarine. The upcoming unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, which will succeed this testbed, was officially named Ghost Shark during a ceremony on Monday as a nod to the Royal Australian Air Force’s Ghost Bat drone designed by Boeing Australia, and the likelihood of arming Ghost Shark sometime down the line is already being discussed. 

Ghost Shark will be developed under a partnership between Anduril Australia, the RAN, and the Defense Science and Technology Group (DSTG). Commercial negotiations for the co-funded design began in May of this year , and the group effort will support Australia’s overarching Extra Large Autonomous Undersea Vehicle (XL-AUV) program, which seeks to rapidly produce an affordable, autonomous, long-endurance drone that can be tailored for a variety of military and non-military missions.

The finalized deal is now valued at about $100 million, and three total XL-AUVs are currently under contract with the RAN to be delivered over the next three years. The customizable testbed displayed on Monday is dubbed ‘Dive-LD’, or Dive-Large Displacement, and was gained by Anduril when it acquired UUV manufacturer Dive Technologies this February . Anduril will leverage Dive-LD as a jumping-off point as it continues fleshing out the future Ghost Shark.

During the Monday ceremony, RAN Rear Adm. Peter Quinn explained that Dive-LD will be used for the experimentation, testing, and validation of potential capabilities to better define what will be Ghost Shark’s concepts of operations and mission set. Each of the three planned prototypes will be iterative, meaning that the systems will vary in respective capabilities and will evolve progressively. 

Dive-LD, which utilizes a 3D-printed exterior, weighs 2.8 tons, has a length of 19 feet (5.6 meters), and will be able to conduct autonomous missions at staggering depths of 3.7 miles (6,000 meters) for up to 10 days. However, Quinn made it a point to note that the future Ghost Shark will ultimately shape up to be school bus-sized, which is likely to affect these performance specifications in some capacity. 

Dive-LD and the Anduril team behind the development of the prototype. <em>Credit: Anduril Australia</em>

Breaking Defense reported that during the invite-only ceremony Quinn especially highlighted how the XL-AUV team will leverage open architectures and modularity in the design of the prototypes and Ghost Shark itself to ease the integration of sensors and upgrades. In doing so, the team will be able to ensure that the drone submarine can perform a variety of missions ranging from surveillance and targeting operations to carrying munitions.  

“Due to its modular and multi-role nature, our adversaries will need to assume that their every move in the maritime domain is subject to our surveillance and that every XL-AUV is capable of deploying a wide range of effects — including lethal ones,” Breaking Defense quoted Quinn as saying. “Once your potential adversaries understand what a Ghost Shark is — not that we’re going to give them any specifics at all — we expect they will generate doubt and uncertainty.”

RAN Rear Adm. Peter Quinn speaking at the Ghost Shark prototype and naming ceremony Monday. <em>Credit: Anduril Australia </em>

Artificial intelligence (AI) will also play a significant role in realizing Ghost Shark’s mission under the XL-AUV program, primarily in regard to its autonomy. While details are still sparse, Quinn touted “software-driven autonomous systems” as being a “force multiplier” for the Australian Defence Force, and Ghost Shark will be no exception. These goals are further echoed under the RAN’s overarching Robotics, Autonomous Systems, and Artificial Intelligence (RAS-AI) strategy, which envisions the rapid proliferation of these technologies within the service between now and 2040.

“Ghost Shark will join Ghost Bat and other autonomous systems as our investment in smart AI-enabled technologies come to fruition,” Quinn said. “Our recently released RAS-AI Campaign Plan includes the rapid development of combat-ready prototypes to accelerate operational deployment of game-changing capabilities such as Ghost Shark."

Australia's MQ-28 Ghost Bat unmanned aerial system, another capability that supports the country's larger RAS-AI strategy. <em>Credit: Boeing Australia</em>

Though, that isn’t to say humans won’t still be involved in Ghost Shark operations. Breaking Defense also spoke to RAN Commodore Darron Kavanagh, director general of warfare innovation for the service, who explained that AI’s involvement in any lethal actions that Ghost Shark may have to take will be limited for now.

“As you bring down the cost of these, and you get better at understanding how to safely use the artificial intelligence — because this is the key about how we ensure that what we do with actually the management of artificial intelligence, and how we keep control of it is really paramount to defense,” said Kavanagh to Breaking Defense. “We’re very strong on that view about how we will control artificial intelligence.”

AI infusion in UUVs is especially critical due to the limited opportunities for connectivity dictated by the underwater combat environment compared to the aerial combat environment, especially in high-threat areas. Allowing drones to more freely work without constant communication is critical to realizing their potential and ensuring a high degree of survivability.

All told, the XL-AUV team hopes to have a production-representative Ghost Shark prototype delivered by the end of 2025, according to statements made by Dr. Shane Arnott, senior vice president of engineering at Anduril Industries, during the Monday ceremony. Arnott hopes that Ghost Shark can soon be used in place of the RAN’s crewed submarines for the more “dull, dirty, and dangerous missions,” thereby freeing them up for more complex operations. 

Dr. Shane Arnott (far left), senior vice president of engineering at Anduril Industries, stands with members from the XL-AUV team in front of the Dive-LD Ghost Shark prototype. <em>Credit: Anduril Australia</em>

Submarines in general are a major aspect of military activity in the Indo-Pacific region as tensions with China continue to rise, and will only become more so in the coming years. In terms of Australia specifically, the nation is slated to receive a brand new fleet of at least eight nuclear-capable attack submarines to bolster its maritime presence in the region.

However, the first of these new submarines is expected to arrive within 10 years, and even still the timeframe is highly questionable based on the ambiguity around how exactly Australia will acquire these boats and from who under the new AUKUS security corporation deal with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Australia's <em>Collins</em> class diesel-electric submarines will have to soldier on for many years to come until the country can stand up a nuclear submarine capability. This will only make the role of emerging UUV technology all the more critical for the RAN. <em>Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman James R. Evans</em>

With this in mind, it's easy to see just how critical long-endurance UUVs could become for Australia, especially if the timetable for the acquisition of their new nuclear boats drags out. Beyond that, as previously noted, there are some missions these unmanned submarines will be capable of executing that are just too risky or impossible for their much larger manned counterparts. As China develops similar capabilities , it's likely that more and more reliance on UUVs will become a reality, in general, and that will greatly complicate undersea warfare.

Beyond China and Australia's own ambitions, UUVs like Ghost Shark have been a growing interest among militaries across the globe . For example, the United States’ Boeing-designed Orca drone submarine is broadly reminiscent of what the XL-AUV has planned for Ghost Shark in regard to its size and concept of operations, with the Navy hoping to leverage it for mine sweeping missions first and potentially underwater surveillance and/or electronic warfare later. Even kinetic missions could grow out from there.

Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea test vehicle. <em>Credit: U.S. Navy program office via GAO report</em>

No matter how Ghost Shark’s role may ultimately manifest among the RAN, the drone sub appears to be an exciting effort for Australia with the potential to evolve how the country operates below the surface. Not only that, but it will take its place alongside Ghost Bat as a glimpse of what's to come for the Australian military.

Author's note: Text and headline were tweaked to make it clear that the submarine pictured is a testbed for the upcoming Ghost Shark UUVs that have yet to be delivered. Those UUVs will look different compared to this one.

Contact the author: [email protected]

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Anduril's extra-large UUV Ghost Shark edges closer to production in Australia

10th November 2023 - 07:47 GMT | by Tim Fish in Sydney

The Dive-LD system was on display at the Anduril stand that is a much smaller 3t UUV with a capability for 10 day operations going down to depths of 6,000ft. This is being targeted at the military and commercial applications. (Tim Fish)

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Anduril's extra-large UUV Ghost Shark edges closer to production in Australia

US uncrewed underwater vehicle (UUV) systems manufacturer Anduril, through its Australian subsidiary, has a contract to deliver three extra-large prototype UUVs (XLUUVs) named Ghost Shark to the Royal Australian Navy.

Speaking to Shephard at the Indo-Pacific Maritime exhibition in Sydney, Shane Arnott, senior vice-president of engineering at Anduril Australia, said that the company has a contract to build three Ghost Shark prototypes by mid-2025 with Warfare Innovation Navy (WIN) Branch and Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), and has been building a low-rate factory in-country. The intent is at the end of this, if successful, they go into production.

‘There’ll be

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Tim Fish

Tim Fish is a special correspondent for Shephard Media. Formerly the editor of Land Warfare …

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Defence Research: Special Report

‘game-changer’: how the ghost shark will deter coercive behaviour.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 13: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L), US President Joe Biden (C) and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) hold a press conference after a trilateral meeting during the AUKUS summit on March 13, 2023 in San Diego, California. President Biden hosts British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in San Diego for an AUKUS meeting to discuss the procurement of nuclear-powered submarines under a pact between the three nations. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Take nuclear submarines deal at more than face value

By the time the “optimal pathway” for nuclear-powered submarines was revealed in San Diego last month, after 18 months of intense speculation, almost every ­detail had already leaked. Most observers assumed one or another of the plans would turn out to be correct; none guessed it would be all them.

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Working together to get the best, cutting-edge technology, fast

It is clear that a culture of collaboration is necessary for success, and so is innovation.

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Chemical weapons remain a concern

It’s difficult to prevent rogue nations producing or developing chemical weapons in secret. But some sort of action and retaliation is expected for the nations that break the rules.

Pics of defence industry minister Pat Conroy. Picture: Supplied

We need advanced technology, ready to use and deploy

Working at the cutting edge of strategic research, our researchers, scientists and innovators are generating technologies that will safeguard our national security as we face the challenges ahead.

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Social media platforms are the new battlefields

Social media platforms are the new battlefields where nations and other parties manoeuvre to gain advantage and where disinformation campaigns are the potent new weapons.

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Strix a unique, unmanned bird of prey

If BAE Systems’ new unmanned aerial system Strix looks unusual, it is because it was designed to meet some seemingly incongruous criteria.

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Fast, on-the-ground military intelligence gleaned from social media, thanks to AI

Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) and the University of Melbourne have developed an artificial intelligence-led platform designed to gather and analyse key intelligence sourced from social media sites.

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How university help can fix the innovation crisis

To maintain the security of our top-tier economy, we must change how Australia’s university innovation currently connects with industry.

“Deakin and the Australian Army are testing new Autonomous vehicle technology”

‘Follow the leader’ autonomous vehicle technology is a game changer for defence

Deakin University and the Australian Army are testing new autonomous ‘leader-follower vehicle technology’ on public roads.

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Uncrewed sub will create uncertainty in the minds of Australia’s potential adversaries and challenge traditional sea power.

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Defence industry’s crucial role in defending our way of life

Advanced capabilities to defend against and deter adversaries are essential in today’s world. And Australian industry is in a unique and advantageous position to provide them.

Design Thinking Concept, Line Style Vector Illustration

‘Design Thinking’ approach to messy problems may be the best solution

Australia is on the cusp of massive change in its Defence force structure and planning. Adopting the Design Thinking approach may be just what is required to navigate a new era of significant change.

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Eye in sky enhances view on the ground

Defence’s Buccaneer Main Mission (BMM), launched before the end of this year, will look down at the Ionosphere from an orbital altitude of about 500km.

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New software helping forces to hide in plain sight

Just why are Australian warships that particular shade of grey (“Haze Grey” if you’re interested)? And why do Australian soldiers wear that particular type of camouflage?

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FracRisk tool keeps Hercules aloft longer

A new software tool will help enormously with safe fleet life management as these aircraft get older.

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CATJAT jammer designed to block IEDs

A new system, called CATJAT, has been designed to neutralise much of the IED threat facing Australian troops.

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Scientist uses maths theory to keep planes flying safely

Defence scientist Dr Nick Armstrong is using probability theory to help keep defence aircraft safe and ready to fly.

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Flinders delivers focused support

The AUKUS program is an unparalleled advanced manufacturing opportunity that will be one of Australia’s largest ever economic investments. And Flinders University is ready to deliver.

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Robotic test has students all at sea

The ADF is preparing the next generation of robotics specialists with a competition of university and high school students to see who can build the most capable autonomous boat.

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RMIT has history working with the defence sector

RMIT has partnered with Australia’s defence sector for more than 100 years. This enduring partnership continues today through research and development with the Department of Defence and the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG).

defence special report

Ghost Shark to challenge traditional sea power

By GREGOR FERGUSON

April 20, 2023

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The Ghost Shark uncrewed submarine won’t replace anything in current Navy service because nothing has existed until now that can do its job.

That’s one reason why Defence’s Science and Technology Group and the Royal Australian Navy have invested heavily in it.

Another reason is that it challenges existing capability development and acquisition paradigms: not only is it supposed to enter service very quickly, the contractor who is designing and building it at a secret location on Sydney Harbour, US software giant Anduril, is funding half of the $140m cost of the project as well. Defence’s 50 per cent contribution is funded through the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF) which is administered by DSTG.

The Ghost Shark, or Extra Large Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (XL-AUV), program which began only in July last year, will be controlled by Anduril’s own Artificial Intelligence-powered Lattice Operating System (OS). The concept for Ghost Shark is that it will be an affordable, autonomous, long-endurance and multi-mission system.

“Make no mistake, (XL-AUVs) will be a game-changer,” said former head of Navy Capability Rear Admiral Peter Quinn when he officially named the Ghost Shark last year.

“They will provide militaries with a persistent option for the delivery of underwater effects in high-risk environments, complementing our existing crewed ships and submarines as well as our future uncrewed surface vessels.

“The Ghost Shark program will create uncertainty in the minds of our potential adversaries and will deter both illegal and coercive behaviour,” he added.

“Due to their modular and multi-role nature, our adversaries will need to assume that their every move in the maritime domain is subject to our surveillance, and that every XL-AUV is capable of deploying a wide range of effects, including lethal ones.”

Exact roles and performance targets are classified, but to achieve these goals, it will be modular, customisable and optimised with different payloads for different missions.

From left: Dr Shane Arnott, Anduril Australia’s Senior Vice President of Engineering and, effectively, chief designer of both the XL-AUV and the Boeing MQ-28A Ghost Bat; Rear Admiral Steve Hughes; Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro AC; Rear Admiral Peter Quinn (retired); and David Goodrich OAM, CEO of Anduril Australia; stand in front of the Dive LD autonomous submarine which is much smaller but uses the same Lattice OS as the Ghost Shark and will be used by Defence for experimentation, testing and validation as it develops the Ghost Shark.

And to achieve all of these things quickly, Chief of DSTG’s Platforms Division, Professor Emily Hilder, says “Our view is that the only way we’ll succeed at pace is if we do this together.”

The company aims to have three production-ready prototypes in the water by the end of 2025, though the first of those will be at sea well before then, says Anduril Australia’s chief executive David Goodrich.

DSTG involvement with Ghost Shark began as a conversation with Anduril, followed by a joint proposal from Hilder and Quinn to the Vice-Chief of the Defence Force and then to the minister. The two teams are now intermingled: DSTG and Navy’s Warfighting Innovation Navy (WIN) Branch work with Anduril personnel in Sydney and some Anduril engineers work on DSTG sites.

DSTG brings two important factors to the project, Hilder adds. After more than 40 years of supporting the Navy’s submarine and sonar programs, it has a skilled workforce and deep domain knowledge about the underwater environment, and it understands Navy’s needs.

Some of those experts in computational fluid dynamics, propulsion, energy storage and simulation have transferred seamlessly to the Ghost Shark program. They have been able to take early designs for the Ghost Shark, model them and then test them to determine things like the best shape to balance the conflicting needs of manoeuvrability, propulsion efficiency and stealth. At times, they have turned around one concept design a day.

“If you want to be able to do fast-moving innovative activity well, you need a really strong and broad technology base,” says Hilder. “You can only build a base like that if you have a deliberate, long-term R&D program.”

‘The Ghost Shark program will create uncertainty in the minds of our potential adversaries and will deter both illegal and coercive behaviour’

– Rear Admiral Peter Quinn (retiured), former head of Navy Capability

Anduril’s approach intersects neatly with growing demand from the RAN and DSTG for what the Chief Defence Scientist, Professor Tanya Monro, calls “speed to capability”.

Speed really matters, agrees Quinn: “We need to be able to realise capability more quickly, from concept to getting systems into the hand of our sailors.”

Defence’s forward-leaning leadership means industry can disrupt the old status quo.

Speed is part of Anduril’s competitive advantage in the US and with the active support of Defence it is challenging traditional Australian capability development and acquisition models, Goodrich says.

“Anduril Australia has been working on a different rapid capability development and delivery model,” he says.

“Anduril doesn’t wait for government to fund its ideas and its programs; Anduril uses its own internal sources of capital to develop products ahead of a capability requirement. It takes us anywhere between six and 12 months from idea to fieldable product that we put into the hands of our warfighting customers, and then we rapidly iterate, working with our customers on improving those capabilities.”

The Ghost Shark will be both a commercial and a Defence capability, Goodrich adds.

“We are building for a range of other industries (including) the resources industry, the sub-sea exploration market, particularly the offshore wind market, and they will obviously have very, very different payloads for their particular commercial uses.”

The unprecedentedly close relationship between DSTG, the Navy and the company validates Anduril’s development philosophy of rapid engineering and fielding “evergreen” capability.

“This means that the capability is never finished and we’re continuously upgrading it and updating it, and our adversaries will never know what is coming at them because of this evergreen philosophy and capability that we bring to the table,” Goodrich says.

It also suggests that in an environment of constant innovation and upgrades there is no end state, and this may be Defence’s – and DSTG’s – new reality.

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IMAGES

  1. Mysterious ghost shark captured on camera for the first time

    ghost shark mass

  2. Rare Footage of the Haunting Ghost Shark

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  3. Video: Mysterious ghost shark filmed for the first time

    ghost shark mass

  4. Video: Mysterious ‘Ghost Shark’ Caught on Camera–They Live 2,000m DEEP

    ghost shark mass

  5. Watch: Rare ghost shark captured on camera for the first time

    ghost shark mass

  6. Monterey Bay Aquarium releases video of rare ghost shark

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COMMENTS

  1. 14 Mysterious Ghost Shark (Chimaera) Facts

    1. They are the among the oldest fish in the ocean They have the slowest evolving genome of all known invertebrates. That's why many of their characteristics seem out of place against other oceanic species. In fact, ghost sharks belong to the only group of fish with true nostrils! 1 2. Some ghost fish are known as 'rat fish' and 'elephant fish'

  2. Ghost Shark

    Animals Ghost Shark The ghost shark, better known as a chimaeras, are cartilaginous fish. They are also sometimes referred to as "rat fish" or "rabbit fish." Physical Characteristics Length: 2 feet (0.6 meters) Weight: 2 pounds (0.9 kg) Lifespan: 15 years Key Information Scientific name: Callorhinchus milii

  3. Deep-Sea Ghost Shark Filmed Alive In Ocean For First Time

    Also called chimaeras, ghost sharks are dead-eyed, wing-finned fish rarely seen by people. Relatives of sharks and rays, these deep-sea denizens split off from these other groups some 300 million...

  4. Watch Rare Footage of the Mysterious Ghost Shark Gliding Through the

    The ghost shark gliding through the screen differed from the two endemic to this region. They consulted three different chimaera experts who came to the conclusion that the creature is likely the ...

  5. Callorhinchus milii

    Callorhinchus milii Ghost Shark Ghost shark. Photo © Doug Perrine Callorhinchus milii This unusual family of 'chimaera' branched off from sharks almost 400 million years ago. The ghost shark is easily identified because of their very large, high-set eyes, and the club-like structure at the end of their snouts.

  6. Ghost Shark

    Ocean Life Sharks & Rays Ghost Shark photo Ghost Shark (NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research) When is a shark not a shark? When it's a ghost shark! These creatures are actually chimaeras—cartilaginous fishes that are related to sharks but distinguished by several differences, including having only one gill on either side of the body.

  7. Chimaera

    Visible on its snout are tiny pores which lead to electroreceptor cells. Chimaeras are soft-bodied, shark-like fish with bulky heads and long, tapered tails; measured from the tail, they can grow up to 150 cm (4.9 ft) in length. Like other members of the class Chondrichthyes, chimaera skeletons are entirely cartilaginous, or composed of cartilage.

  8. Origins of Elusive 'Ghost Shark' Revealed

    A 280-million-year-old skull of a shark-like fish is shedding light on the origins of ghost sharks, an elusive group of mostly-deep sea cartilaginous fish.

  9. The Elusive Ghost Shark

    The male ghost shark reveals its tenaculum. Credit: University of Florida. In the coming weeks, the team will deploy the ROV about 100 meters deep from a boat in Elliot Bay in Puget Sound, and other sites around the San Juan Islands. Covered in cameras that will deliver 360-degree views, the ROV will capture images designed to create a virtual ...

  10. Mysterious 'Ghost Shark' Found for 1st Time in Northern Hemisphere

    Since 2002, researchers have discovered 19 new ratfish species, including the Pacific black ghost shark (Hydrolagus melanophasma), captured on video in the Gulf of California, Mexico, by MBARI in ...

  11. Watch: Mysterious ghost shark captured on camera for the first time

    December 17, 2016 at 2:05 p.m. EST The pointy-nosed blue chimaera, or ghost shark, was filmed alive for the first time ever off the coasts of Hawaii and California. The deep-sea fish was...

  12. Will Ghost Sharks Vanish Before Scientists Can Study Them?

    A giant black ghost shark on the seafloor, at a depth of about 6,500 feet. Te Papa/Massey University By Annie Roth Published Dec. 17, 2020 Updated Sept. 29, 2021 Take one look at a ghost...

  13. Ghost sharks

    07-24-2023 Ghost sharks - unraveling the mysteries of these strange and elusive sea monsters By Eric Ralls Earth.com staff writer A team of intrepid researchers from the University of Florida and the Seattle Aquarium are poised to embark on a unique expedition this summer.

  14. Unlocking secrets of the elusive ghost shark

    The ghost shark exploration project is supported through funds from a National Science Foundation grant focused on skin teeth of sharks and Fraser's UF start-up grant. The team hopes to uncover ...

  15. Unlocking secrets of the elusive ghost shark

    Karen Dooley July 21, 2023 <p>Researchers from the University of Florida and the Seattle Aquarium are exploring 100 meters underwater in the Pacific Northwest to learn more about mysterious ghost sharks, one of the strangest beasts from the depths of the ocean.</p>

  16. Unlocking secrets of the elusive ghost shark

    The ghost shark exploration project is supported through funds from a National Science Foundation grant focused on skin teeth of sharks and Fraser's UF start-up grant. The team hopes to uncover ...

  17. National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

    At least 38 known species of ghost sharks occupy the world's ocean, the newest of which was discovered in 2009 in the Gulf of California, called the Eastern Pacific Black Ghost Shark. Ghost sharks have long tapering bodies and incredibly large heads. Their skin ranges in color from black to pale blue to brownish grey and is quite smooth.

  18. To figure out how ghost sharks evolved, scientists virtually

    The more than 280-million-year-old skull was from an ancient relative of today's ghost sharks ... which is when a mass extinction killed off 75 percent of life on Earth. That's much earlier ...

  19. ADW: Callorhinchus milii: INFORMATION

    pelagic coastal Range depth 0 to 600 m

  20. This Is Australia's Testbed For Its Upcoming 'Ghost Shark' Unmanned

    The upcoming unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, which will succeed this testbed, was officially named Ghost Shark during a ceremony on Monday as a nod to the Royal Australian Air Force's...

  21. Anduril's extra-large UUV Ghost Shark edges closer to production in

    US uncrewed underwater vehicle (UUV) systems manufacturer Anduril, through its Australian subsidiary, has a contract to deliver three extra-large prototype UUVs (XLUUVs) named Ghost Shark to the Royal Australian Navy.

  22. A Creepy, Exceptionally Rare 'Ghost Shark' Chimaera Has Been Found in

    An adult ghost shark recorded off the coast of Central California. (MBARI 2007) This newly hatched, or neonate, chimaera ended up in the net during a recent NIWA trawling survey, conducted about 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) underwater in order to estimate the population of another local fish, the hoki (which is commonly used in commercial fish ...

  23. Ghost Shark to challenge traditional sea power

    The Ghost Shark, or Extra Large Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (XL-AUV), program which began only in July last year, will be controlled by Anduril's own Artificial Intelligence-powered Lattice ...