Scientists just identified the mysterious creature from 2009 footage as a ghost shark

Source: YouTube
Source: YouTube

According to scientists, ghosts may be real, and they're lurking more than 6,000 feet underwater.

In a stroke of what Pacific Shark Research Center program director Dave Ebert called "dumb luck," experts at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute learned that the mysterious deep-sea creature they caught on camera in 2009 is actually a ghost shark, otherwise known as a chimaera. 

According to National Geographic, the institute's geologists spotted the animal off the Pacific coast of the U.S. via a remotely operated vehicle they plunged as far as 6,700 feet beneath the ocean's surface. But at first, the researchers weren't entirely sure of what they were seeing.

Source: YouTube

"It's almost a little comical," Ebert told National Geographic of the shark's interactions with the remote operated camera. "It would come up and bounce its nose off the lens and swim around and come back."

After taking stock of the creature's pointy snout, winged fins, "dead eyes" and, well, the retractable sex organ on its head, Ebert and his colleagues identified it as a chimaera.

Ebert said the next step to understanding more about the mysterious creature would be to collect a DNA sample, a tall order considering how difficult it was just to catch sight of a chimaera in the first place. Nonetheless, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's footage still provides scientists with some helpful clues about the habits and behaviors of ghost sharks.

Ebert told National Geographic the chimaera's rocky surroundings suggest a difference in preference from other ghost shark species, who typically prefer softer, more even terrain. 

"I suspect many species are wide-ranging — we just don't have the data," marine biologist Dominique Didier, a professor at Millersville University, told National Geographic.

Here's to hoping chimaera experts don't get ghosted before they find out more.

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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