An unmanned submersible unintentionally caught a glimpse of an extremely rare ocean creature. It has never been caught on film before, and was surprisingly more than 3,500 miles from its home territory. The unusual shark has one distinguishing feature: genitals on its head.
A pointy-nosed blue ratfish (Hydrolagus trolli) was spotted off the coast of Hawaii and California. The rare species has been caught by fisherman, but footage of it alive in the wild has never before been captured. It's been dubbed the 'ghost shark' due to how rare sightings are, and is sometimes called a 'Troll's chimaera.’
Its usual habitat is near Australia and New Zealand. Researchers are trying to confirm if the footage is of a new species, or the same one. "Normally, people probably wouldn’t have been looking around in this area, so it’s a little bit of dumb luck," said Dave Ebert, program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. "It’s almost a little comical. It would come up and bounce its nose off the lens and swim around and come back."
Unlike other sharks, the ghost shark does not have jagged teeth that are replicable; they have non-replicable tooth plates and a jaw fused to their skull.
One unusual feature of this fish is that it has a retractable penis on its forehead. Scientists have not yet figured out just how that particular member is put to use.
Lonny Lundsten of the institute said that until they're able to catch one of the agile creatures and collect DNA samples, they cannot confirm the species. "This is another example of how little we know about the deep sea," he said.