Chimaera (Chimaeriformes) Cartilaginous fish, Ghost sharks

Chimaera (Chimaeriformes) also known as ghost sharks are the forgotten members of the cartilaginous fish class Chondrichthyes. When people talk about these fish, they usually only talk about sharks, rays, and skates, and forgotten are these deep-sea Frankenstein’s.

Chimaera facts

Chimaera
Chimaera Image Credit

The majority of Chimaera live in the deep oceans around the world thriving in depths beyond 200 meters. Some Ghost shark has been found living at 2600 meters deep though. There are a few species like the fantastically named Chimaera monster OSA that live in much shallower waters around 50 meters deep. The Chimaeras closest relatives are sharks but they parted ways 400 million years ago about 10 million years before our ancestors emerged from the water and they haven’t changed all that much.

Chimera ghost shark body

Chimaera monstrosa
Chimera Photo Credit

Since Chimaera is the most primitive known cartilaginous fish while they still bear some resemblance to sharks. They can be easily told apart one of their most prominent differences are their gills sharks can have up to seven-gill slits while Chimaera only has one and their Gill slit is covered by a flap called an operculum. It is like bony fish also like sharks.

Size of Chimaera

Chimaera from the Deep
Chimaera Image Credit

Chimaera doesn’t have any bones in their body and their skeleton is made of cartilage depending on the species Chimaera can measure up to 1.5 meters long well they are hard to study due to the deep-sea locale they’re estimated to live well over 20 years in the wild to defend themselves. Most Chimeras come equipped with a venomous dorsal spine.

The spine is located on their backs it’s a modified scale and it breaks off after every use after which the Chimaera grows a replacement. This dorsal spine is very useful in defense and is incredibly painful to humans. Chimaera venom can cause necrosis hallucinations localized Parral and a lot more you do not want to mess with these ghost sharks.

Chimaera’s reproduction

Chimera or Chimaera fish
Ghost shark Photo Credit

Chimaera reached sexual maturity fairly late in life and like sharks, male Chimaeras have external reproductive organs called claspers. They use these tubes to insert sperm into the body of the female if successful. The female will lay large leathery eggs. Chimaera has a particularly difficult time when targeted by fisheries or when caught as bycatch ghost shark bodies are so adapted to living at crushing depths that when they’re hauled out their bodies can’t handle the change.

Chimaera - Wikipedia
Chimaera Image Credit

Most don’t survive the process there are three families of Chimera, the first contains the Plow nosed Chimaera or elephant fish. They get their name from the fleshy appendage sticking out of their face they can measure up to a hundred and 25 centimeters long and use their plow to find bottom-dwelling prey like sea urchins, mollusks and crabs. Their plow is lined with electroreceptors which help locate hidden prey by sensing their electric field every time.

Pointy-Nosed Blue Chimaera
Blue shark Photo Credit

A mussel moves it creates an electric field even if their price it’s perfectly still their hearts give them away then the Chimera strikes crushing their prey with their broad flat teeth while elephant fish may have the most specialized electroreceptors. All species of Chimaera ghost shark have sensory organs used to detect electric fields to find prey and the coolest thing you can see them if you look closely at this Chimaeras face. You’ll see that it’s lined with little dots these are their electrosensory organs similar to frogfish.

Elephant fish have large pectoral fins that help them move along the ocean floor. The second families are the short nose Chimaera or ratfish their snout is much shorter than their plow nose cousins and they have a much longer and skinnier tail. Hence, their name finally the long-nosed Chimaera these fish have long paddle-shaped noses and all eight living species are found in deep open-water they’re also known as spook fish for obvious reasons.

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