• It was accidentally spotted by scientists studying Hoki population
  • Ghost sharks are the cartilaginous relatives of sharks and rays
  • The little-known species was first caught on camera in 2016

A scary-looking and days-old ghost shark was spotted by New Zealand scientists, who termed the discovery "rare and exciting." These little-known species of fish are very obscure and dwell in the shadowy depths of the ocean, hence rarely seen by human beings.

According to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) report, the deepwater shark was spotted at a depth of approximately 1200m on the South Island in New Zealand.

Known as chimaeras, ghost sharks are not sharks, but cartilaginous relatives of sharks and rays. These dead-eyed, wing-finned aquatic creatures are very rarely spotted by deep-sea roving vehicles because they are usually too large, fast, and agile. Their embryos develop in egg capsules laid on the seafloor and feed off a yolk until they are ready to hatch.

"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," Niwa Fisheries Scientist Dr. Brit Finucci​ said in the report.

Finucci called the discovery a "neat find" and said they stumbled upon the ghost shark by chance while conducting a research trawl survey of hoki. "Deepwater species are generally hard to find, and like ghost sharks in particular, they tend to be quite cryptic," she told BBC News. "So we just don't see them very often."

According to the team, juveniles of these species are very different from adults, including in dietary and habitat requirements. Not only do they look dissimilar, but the young ones also have distinctive color patterns. "Finding this ghost shark will help us better understand the biology and ecology of this mysterious group of deep-water fish," Finucci added.

The scientists are now set to study the species more closely through the baby shark. Further tests and genetic analysis will need to be carried out to determine the exact species.

"We'll take a little tissue sample and random genetics. Then we'll do a whole bunch of morphometrics or body measurements as well, which will also help us assess what species we're looking at," Finucci told BBC News.

The first time a ghost shark was caught on camera was in 2016.

ocean floor
Representation. Pixabay