We spend a lot of time talking about sharks—of the baby, prehistoric monster, week, and man-eating variety. Somehow, in all these musings about sharks, the baby ghost shark remained deep in the sea. Absent from all discourse. Until now, that is. Meet my pride and joy: my spooky ghost shark son. Sure, he’s very terrifying to look at, but really, how many newborns are that cute? (If the answer is all of them, see below.)
Marine biologists working for New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) spotted the newly-hatched baby shark off the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Specifically, they discovered it around Chatham Rise, an a shallower area of the ocean floor around 1200 meters (3937 feet) deep. In a press release, NIWA called the discovery a “very rare find” considering ghost sharks are generally deep sea dwellers. We first spotted this tiny creature at Gizmodo.
NIWA Fisheries Scientist Dr Brit Finucci, part of the team that discovered the tiny shark, explained how they determined the shark was recently-hatched. Finucci said, “You can tell this ghost shark recently hatched because it has a full belly of egg yolk. It’s quite astonishing. Most deep-water ghost sharks are known adult specimens; neonates are infrequently reported so we know very little about them.”
Ghost sharks are rather enigmatic deep sea creatures. Even their given name, chimaera, has an ominous ring to it. In fact, the species wasn’t caught on camera until 2016. Yep, just a few years ago, courtesy of the folks at MBARI. The press release notes that ghost shark embryos “develop in egg capsules laid on the sea floor, feeding off a yolk until they are ready to hatch.” Considering the scientists discovered the shark on the ocean floor, this makes a lot of sense. The capsules themselves, however, are quite gnarly-looking. (It looks like the picture someone shows after asking, “Wanna see something gross?”)
Finucci added that based on research on other chimaeras species, scientists know that hatchling and adults are quite distinct—from their coloring to their environment needs. The scientists don’t exactly know what species of ghost shark the little fish is. But it’s still a monumental find. “Finding this ghost shark will help us better understand the biology and ecology of this mysterious group of deep-water fish,” Finucci said.
As with the best discoveries, the scientists accidentally stumbled across the tiny shark. The NIWA researchers were on the water as part of a trawl survey looking at hoki. (Hoki, also called, blue grenadier are a white fish found all over New Zealand and Australia.)
We’re certainly curious to know more about our beloved baby shark. Not to go full stage mom but Paramount+, I’ve found your new star.