News Article | January 13, 2016
Marina Elliott never planned to apply her outdoor adventure skills to a career in research and exploration. But in October 2013, she saw an advertisement for a project in South Africa that called for cave explorers with archaeological experience who were also small enough to squeeze through a narrow passageway to excavate an underground chamber. She was startled by how perfectly qualified she was for the job. Already an avid rock climber and spelunker, Elliott was then finishing up a PhD in biological anthropology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She had worked on excavations in remote places, including Siberia and northern Alaska. And she had the flexibility to drop everything to spend a month in Africa. She joined a team of five other women. One by one, they shimmied through a 12-metre-long chute with an 18-centimetre-wide pinch point, and they emerged with more than 1,500 fossils from 15 skeletons of a previously unknown species of ancient hominin called Homo naledi. The discovery helped her to land her current postdoc position in biological anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and she now leads a team of six cavers who continue to explore the region. Although Elliott's path required a dose of serendipity, her experience illustrates one of the many ways that scientists can combine a love for outdoor adventure with their career. Researchers who pursue extreme fieldwork say that the discoveries they make along the way provide a lifetime of adventure tales and shape their careers in positive ways. Combining an extracurricular passion for the outdoors with a high-stakes career, however, also brings complications, including the risk that nothing will go as planned. When preparing for fieldwork, 'adventure' researchers need to be particularly careful with logistics to ensure success — and their own survival. In addition, they often need to acquire specialized insurance and build a safety net of teammates and strategies to deal with inevitable obstacles. Even with the best-laid plans, disaster can still come in many forms — from violent weather and political strife to crippling injuries. Flexibility and quick thinking can be the difference between a productive trip and a waste of time — or worse. Stacy Kim, a marine ecologist at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, regularly dives beneath the ice in Antarctica to study how human pollution affects life on the sea floor. On one trip, she spun out on a snowmobile and dislocated her shoulder. The weather was bad, and the remoteness of the location meant that it took several days for medical personnel to reach her by helicopter. For the rest of the trip, she was stuck on top of the ice, doing lab work instead of going underwater. Her teammates did the diving instead. “You try to make sure no single person is completely irreplaceable,” she says. When injuries and other obstacles occur, they can prematurely end expeditions — but stopping early is not always an option when a research agenda is involved. So, like Kim, many scientists who work in extreme locations try to factor in more time, gear and logistical support than they would for trips done purely for fun. Ecologist Catherine Cardelús of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, does most of her field work in the tree canopies, a task that requires climbing up ropes while battling jungle heat and fending off biting insects. On each climb, she lugs a heavy pack filled with sample-collecting tags and bags, tape measures, notebooks, walkie-talkies, water, lunch and other supplies for days of work that can keep her in the trees for up to seven hours at a time. Cardelús says that her field season lasts two or three times longer than those of scientists whose research occurs on the ground. Some days of work are inevitably lost because of rain or wind, so she always makes sure to hit the trees immediately on good days. But because it is so exhausting, nobody is allowed to do work in the canopy for more than three days in a row. “You have to be incredibly flexible and forgiving,” says Cardelús. “You wake up in the morning and there's a shut-out rain, so you have to say, 'Oh well, let's punch in some data. Let's do lab work.' You constantly have to be open to the possibility that you can't do what you need to do.” It can help to consider unplanned diversions as opportunities, says Kyle Larson, a structural geologist at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus in Kelowna. In 2014 on a trip to Nepal, Larson and his team were stopped by snow at an elevation of 3,000 metres — only halfway to their planned destination. They collected what samples they could, but they were unable to gather data for a project of a student on the trek. She had to abandon the Nepal study and later did fieldwork in Saskatchewan instead, which led to some significant findings. “If you end up going to places you didn't expect to go,” Larson says, “you can discover things you didn't expect to discover.” Safety is also a major concern when working on the edge, and adventurous scientists recommend erring on the side of caution, both to protect team members and to sustain funding. After all, it can take extra effort to persuade a granting agency to give money to support a dangerous, lengthy or team-heavy expedition that may not go as intended. Early in his career, ecologist Douglas Larson (no relation to Kyle), now an emeritus professor at the University of Guelph, Canada, included climbing ropes in a purchase order so that he could rappel down cliffs in the Niagara Escarpment and study what turned out to be extremely ancient trees living there — a discovery so surprising that forest ecologists in the region disparaged the results before they saw samples. The university's director of safety and security told Larson that even one accident would shut his project down. From then on, he committed to extra precautions and redundancies in his equipment, so that even if someone had a heart attack, he or she could be pulled up. Instead of having two or three points of webbing attached to the anchors at a time, as do most recreational climbers, he and his group use four or five. Strong safety nets become essential in this line of work. Elliott's dig in South Africa had a medic on standby 24 hours a day. They notified several groups about their plans, including the South African military and a mining-rescue organization, so that they could get help quickly in case of a confined-space emergency. Many adventure-researchers buy specialized insurance that can provide rescue help in remote locations or that can cover accidents related to their work. But no insurance company can charter a helicopter-rescue mission to a place such as K2, the second-tallest mountain in the world, where geologist Mike Searle of the UK's University of Oxford has conducted research. He recommends building relationships with the locals in remote regions, and he always gets to know his porters. “If you're in trouble, those are the guys who are going to carry you down.” It also helps to be in shape, which is business as usual for many researchers who scale glaciers, climb mountains or dive to the ocean floor in frigid water. To prevent injury and to stay flexible and strong for caving, Elliott runs, hikes and takes exercise classes that combine ballet, Pilates and gymnastics. Kyle Larson lifts weights six days a week when he is not trekking. Kim freedives for fun, often down to 18 metres or so. And Searle, now aged 61, bikes to work every day. He also climbs, swims and surfs. “You can't climb mountains,” he says, “if you're a couch potato.” One summer day in 1998, Cardelús was dangling from a rope some 24 metres above ground, near the top of a tree in the Costa Rican jungle, when two howler monkeys began to make aggressive motions. Crouched about three metres away, they were shaking branches and baring their teeth with arms outstretched, ready to leap. “I thought, 'Oh my God, here they come',” she says. Then she heard “an ancestral guttural sound” — not from the two monkeys, but from her husband, who was working nearby. The monkeys scattered. Cardelús — who no longer climbs when monkeys are nearby — has experienced many such close calls that include run-ins with snakes, ants, bees and tarantulas (see 'Views from the other side'). “Each time you climb a tree for the first time, you have to be prepared to evacuate within 15 seconds,” she says. “It's always exciting getting into the canopy. And it's just as euphoric to get to the ground.” Wildlife is not the only source of heart-thumping adventure. One afternoon in the spring of 2011, Kyle Larson crested a mountain pass in Nepal to discover a steep, nearly sheer descent buried in waist-deep snow. The team could see neither the trail nor what they were stepping on. Last year, he arrived in the country's Makalu region on the heels of a busy storm season that had dumped metres of snow on the region. Piles of snow reached the rooftops, and trekking was treacherous. “Trying to walk down through that was scary,” he says. “There were lots of bruised knees and falls.” A certain level of psychological preparation is crucial for working in extreme environments that are, by nature, full of surprises. And that process often starts before the expedition begins. For Elliott, the idea of squeezing through an extremely tiny space presented the first mental obstacle. When Lee Berger, the palaeoanthropologist who recruited Elliott and her fellow cavers for the South Africa excavation, told them that they would need to fit through a small gap, “all of us ran around our houses measuring furniture and stuffing ourselves under it”, she says. She could wedge herself into the space just by expanding her lungs. As she applied, Elliott worried that she wasn't qualified enough or that she had screwed up the Skype interview. She continued to doubt herself even after arriving on site. On the first day of reconnaissance, she looked into the 12-metre-long vertical chute that the team was to descend. If someone were to get hurt, medics would have to tend to the injured person until she healed enough to get out on her own. “Psychologically, that was quite trying,” she says. “I remember looking down this shark's maw of rock, and you can't see where you're going because it's not a straight line, and thinking, 'Oh, gee, perhaps I've miscalculated my own skill set'.” Because academic courses typically do not cover the ins and outs of survival, Elliott relied instead on years of hands-on experience and prior training that had taught her to remain calm enough to deal with unexpected circumstances. Long before she took on the caving job in South Africa, she had worked as a field guide for an adventure-tour company in the Rocky Mountains and earned a certificate in wilderness first aid. Both equipped her with survival and decision-making skills. It is impossible to predict every emergency, she says. But one can learn to think quickly and clearly in any situation. “What you can prepare for,” she says, “is the mental stability to say, 'OK, what do we need to do next? Who needs to do it?” Elliott also advises young researchers to pursue all of their life passions, even if they seem completely unrelated. She started out studying veterinary medicine before earning a PhD in anthropology and landing the career-changing excavation post in South Africa. “My take-home message is, don't fuss if your career or life path appears to be a little bit circuitous,” she says. “You never really know where any given skill set or experience might lead you.”
News Article | November 18, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--An 18-acre wetland in Castroville was re-flooded today through a partnership between the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, Central Coast Wetlands Group (CCWG) at Moss Landing Marine Labs and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The restored wetland will provide an ecosystem that will be able to naturally clean 80,000 gallons of surface water for the community every day. “Wetlands provide important natural resources for our communities, create natural habitats for wildlife, native plants and clean water, remove pollution and help to combat the effects of climate change,” said CCWG Director Ross Clark. The wetland is part of the Moro Cojo Slough watershed. Water is being pumped from the Castroville Ditch, which drains approximately 600 acres of land farmed predominantly in artichokes and Brussels sprouts. The water is then gravity-fed through a channel that provides a habitat for wetland plants. These plants will remove nitrates, naturally filtering and cleaning the water. Coastal Conservation and Research grew and has planted 30,000 native wetland plants. Bridget Hoover, water quality protection program director for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said, “Wetlands are a natural filter that help to improve the quality of water that flows through watersheds by removing contaminants, such as nutrients, fecal bacteria, pesticides, and metals that pollute our ocean. This wetland will be a tremendous resource for the Monterey Bay.” The California State Water Resources Control Board provided Proposition 84 grant funding to construct the project. The land was provided by PG&E. In 1996, Moss Landing Marine Labs and PG&E partnered to restore an 11-acre wetland adjacent to this site. Earlier this year, PG&E Corporation contributed $250,000 to the successful Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay campaign that will fund the restoration of 15,000 acres of San Francisco Bay Area wetlands. “PG&E is committed to continuing to protect California’s unique ecosystems, an important part of our strong and enduring commitment to the environment. This wetland will directly benefit our customers by providing this community with clean surface water and a restored ecosystem,” said PG&E Vice President of Safety, Health and Environment Andy Williams. After water flow is restored, additional native plants and seeds will be planted over the next two years. Scientists will monitor the downstream water to evaluate the success of the project, and later the site will be made available to train students and agricultural professionals. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) administers the Master of Science in marine science program for California State Universities in northern and central California, and is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in both education and research. CCWG is a wetland research group at Moss Landing Marine Labs serving the Central Coast of California. CCWG works closely with regional and state partners to expand wetland science and develop collaborative wetland enhancement opportunities among resource managers, policy makers and the agriculture industry. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and pge.com/news.
News Article | December 18, 2016
Ghost sharks are among the oldest known creatures on the planet. These marine animals are older than the dinosaurs. They also happen to be very elusive because they live in the deep sea at depths of 8,500 feet. Scientists, however, think that a strange-looking fish filmed by geologists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, California, in 2009 is a species of ghost shark, also known as chimaera. The geologists were not looking for sharks when they sent a remotely operated vehicle for dives but a strange-looking creature swum up to the ROV's camera and was eventually filmed. Curious about the identity of this creature, the institute reached out to Dave Ebert of the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and other experts who analyzed the video. Ebert and his team believed the fish is a pointy-nosed blue chimaera (Hydrolagus trolli) albeit with some uncertainty. They said that they need a DNA sample to reach a solid conclusion, which can be difficult given the ghost sharks live below the ocean's surface. "The only way we can collect these species is by trawling," said marine biologist Dominique Didier, a chimaera expert from Millersville University in Pennsylvania. "So, it's like a snapshot. Imagine trying to understand species distribution in Lake Michigan and you sample the lake using a Dixie cup. Trawling the ocean is like that." If the creature captured on the video is indeed the pointy-nosed blue chimaera, the footage reveals information about these prehistoric fishes. The video, for instance, expanded the habitat range of the fish. The pointy-nosed blue ghost shark is known to thrive in the southern Pacific Ocean off of Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. The video, however, was taken in the waters off of California and Hawaii, which extends the habitat range of the elusive deep-sea animal. "The occurrence of Hydrolagus cf. trolli is reported for the first time from the central and eastern North Pacific Ocean," Ebert and colleagues wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records on Oct. 11. "This is a geographic range extension for this species, as it was previously only known to occur in the southern Pacific Ocean off of Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia." Unlike other deep-sea creatures, the ghost shark also appears attracted to bright lights as evidenced by the creature bouncing its nose off the ROV camera's lens and swimming around it. The rocky outcrops in the background of the video likewise hint that the pointy-nosed blue chimaeras like this kind of habitat over the flat and soft-bottom terrain where other ghost shark species live. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | December 17, 2016
Ghost sharks, officially called chimaeras, have been living in the deep sea swimming at great depths of about a mile and half below the ocean long before the time of the dinosaurs. These prehistoric marine creatures, however, are rarely seen and scientists know little about them. Now, the world has a chance to see this rare deep-sea shark as a video of this creature has finally been released by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California nearly six years after it was taken. The footage, which was published by the National Geographic magazine, is believed to be the first ever video taken of a live pointy-nosed blue chimaera (Hydrolagus trolli), which is often found near New Zealand and Australia, in its natural habitat. If the creature is confirmed to be a pointy-nosed blue chimaera, it would also be the first discovery of the species in the Northern Hemisphere. Dave Ebert, from MBARI's Pacific Shark Research Center, said that the video was captured out of luck. The footage was captured by a remotely operated vehicle when it was sent for dives in the waters off California and Hawaii. The geologists who piloted the ROVs were not even looking for sharks, much more the elusive ghost sharks but one of these rarely seen creatures swum up to the ROV's camera. "Normally, people probably wouldn't have been looking around in this area, so it's a little bit of dumb luck," Ebert said. Researchers believe that the creature was a pointy-nosed blue ghost shark as described by a study published in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records in October 2016. The species is said to possess a large but slender body. Its narrow head evenly tapers to a whip-like tail. "Hydrolagus trolli is a highly distinctive chimaera species, often identified by a combination of the following characteristics: an even blue-gray to pale blue color, a pointed snout, a dark margin around the orbit with dark shadows along edges of the lateral line, and preopercular canal and oral canals usually sharing a common branch," Amber Reichert, from the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and colleagues described the shark in the study. Unlike other shark species such as the Great White and hammerheads, ghost sharks do not have hundreds of sharp teeth. The creatures thrive by targeting smaller and bottom-feeding prey, crushing them with the mineral plates that they have. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | December 20, 2016
This image of a pointy-nosed blue chimaera (Hydrolagus cf. trolli) was captured by MBARI’s remotely operated vehicle Tiburon near the summit of Davidson Seamount, off the coast of Central California at a depth of about 1,640 meters. Credit: 2007 MBARI The deep sea is the largest contiguous habitat on the earth, covering two thirds of the earth's surface and averaging over 3.5 kilometers deep. Because most deep-ocean waters are connected, many species of deep-sea animals have huge geographic ranges. For example, one deep-sea fish that was previously identified in the Southeastern Pacific has recently been found around the Hawaiian Islands and off the coast of Central California, according to a new paper by MBARI researcher Lonny Lundsten and his colleagues. Scientists call this unusual fish Hydrolagus trolli, but its common name is the pointy-nosed blue chimaera. First named in 2002, it is known to live in deep waters around Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. But until the recent paper, it had not been officially identified anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Chimaeras are unusual fishes. Like sharks, their bodies are not stiffened by bones, but by plates and bone-like bits of cartilage. Like the chimaera from Greek mythology, which had a goat's head, a serpent's tail, and a lion's head, chimaeras are pretty weird looking. Even the common names for this group—ghost sharks, rabbitfishes, and ratfishes—sound like creatures one might see at Halloween. However, chimaeras are relatively common and widespread in the deep sea, with 38 known species around the world. In 2009, MBARI researchers worked with scientists at the California Academy of Sciences and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) to identify a new species of ghost shark in the Gulf of California. Some of these same researchers had also seen ghost sharks during remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives off Central California. They weren't sure about the exact species, but they knew the fish did not look like either of the two species of ghost sharks previously identified from off the California coast. In a recent paper in Marine Biodiversity Records, Lundsten and his colleagues presented evidence that the unidentified ghost shark they were seeing around Monterey Bay was, in fact the same species that had previously been identified only in the Southwestern Pacific. The paper cited three different chimaera experts who viewed the video from MBARI ROV dives and said that they believed the fish was a "pointy-nosed blue chimaera." In their paper, researchers refer to the fish as Hydrolagus cf. trolli. The letters cf. indicate that the researchers believe the physical characteristics of the fish they saw closely match the official species description for Hydrolagus trolli. Their alternative hypothesis is that the fish in MBARI's videos are an entirely new species of ghost shark. The researchers note that they can't positively identify the ghost sharks in the ROV video without actually collecting one of them and bringing it back to the surface. This is much easier said than done, because these fish are generally too large, fast, and agile to be caught by MBARI's ROVs. If and when the researchers can get their hands on one of these fish, they will be able to make detailed measurements of its fins and other body parts and perform DNA analysis on its tissue. This would allow them to either remove the cf. from their species description, or assign the fish to a new species altogether. Similar looking, but as yet unidentified, ghost sharks have also been seen off the coasts of South America and Southern Africa, as well as in the Indian Ocean. If these animals turn out to be the same species as the ghost sharks recently identified off California, it will be further evidence that, like many deep-sea animals, the pointy-nosed blue chimaera can really get around. Explore further: New species of ghostshark from California and Baja California More information: Amber N. Reichert et al. First North Pacific records of the pointy nosed blue chimaera, Hydrolagus cf. trolli (Chondrichthyes: Chimaeriformes: Chimaeridae), Marine Biodiversity Records (2016). DOI: 10.1186/s41200-016-0095-5
Loeb V.J.,Moss Landing Marine Laboratories |
Santora J.A.,Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research
Progress in Oceanography | Year: 2012
The salp Salpa thompsoni has exhibited increased abundance in high latitude portions of the Southern Ocean in recent decades and is now frequently the numerically dominant zooplankton taxon in the Antarctic Peninsula region. The abundance increase of this species in high latitude waters is believed related to ocean warming. Due to its continuous filter feeding and production of dense rapidly sinking fecal pellets S. thompsoni is considered to be an important link in the export of particulate carbon from the surface waters. Hence basic information on the life history of this component of the Antarctic marine ecosystem is essential for assessing its impact given continued climate warming. Here we cover various aspects of the life history of S. thompsoni collected in the north Antarctic Peninsula during annual austral summer surveys of the US Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR) Program between 1993 and 2009. We focus on seasonal and interannual variations in the size composition and abundance of the aggregate (sexual) and solitary (asexual) stages. This information is valuable for refining components of Southern Ocean food web models that explicitly deal with size-structured and life history information on zooplankton. Intraseasonal changes in length-frequency distribution of both stages are used to estimate their growth rates. These average 0.40mmday -1 for aggregates and 0.23mmday -1 for solitaries; together these represent ~7week and ~7.5month generation times, respectively, and a 9month life cycle (i.e., onset of aggregate production year 1 to aggregate production year 2). Based on the maximum lengths typically found during January-March, the life spans of the aggregate and solitary stages can reach at least ~5 and ~15months, respectively. Length-frequency distributions each year reflect interannual differences in timing of the initiation and peak reproductive output. Interannual differences in the abundance of total salps and proportions of the overwintering solitary stage are significantly correlated with El Niño Southern Oscillation indices (SOI and Nino3.4) prevailing over the previous 2years. Massive salp blooms result from two successive summers of elevated solitary production following a reversal from La Niña to El Niño conditions. These results indicate the role of basin-scale atmospheric-oceanic processes in establishing optimal conditions that support aggregate and solitary stage reproduction, development and growth. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Cailliet G.M.,Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
Journal of Fish Biology | Year: 2015
Life-history (age, growth, age validation, reproduction and demography) studies of elasmobranchs date back to the middle of the last century with major early contributions made by British fishery scientists. As predicted by Holden in the early 1970s, many sharks and rays can be vulnerable to fishery mortality because they grow slowly, mature late in life, reproduce infrequently, have relatively low fecundities and can have relatively long life spans. As has now been found, however, not all species exhibit these traits. Also, ageing structures (neural arches and caudal thorns), other than vertebrae and spines, have since been evaluated. Various methods for validating age and growth estimates have been developed and tested on numerous species of elasmobranchs. These include tag-recapture analyses, oxytetracycline injections, centrum or spine edge and marginal increment analyses, and bomb radiocarbon dating of calcified structures. Application of these techniques has sometimes not only validated relatively slow growth and long life span estimates, but also has produced other results. A brief historical perspective on the applications and limitations of these techniques for elasmobranchs is provided, along with a discussion of selected species for which these techniques worked well, did not work at all or have produced variable and conflicting results. Because many fishery management techniques utilize age or stage-specific information, often through demographic analyses, accurate information on the life histories of fished populations, especially age validation, is extremely important for the fishery management of these cartilaginous fishes. © 2015 The Fisheries Society of the British Isles.
Geller J.B.,Moss Landing Marine Laboratories |
Darling J.A.,National Exposure Research Laboratory |
Carlton J.T.,Williams College
Annual Review of Marine Science | Year: 2010
The extent to which the geographic distributions of marine organisms have been reshaped by human activities remains underappreciated, and so does, consequently, the impact of invasive species on marine ecosystems. The application of molecular genetic data in fields such as population genetics, phylogeography, and evolutionary biology have improved our ability to make inferences regarding invasion histories. Genetic methods have helped to resolve longstanding questions regarding the cryptogenic status of marine species, facilitated recognition of cryptic marine biodiversity, and provided means to determine the sources of introduced marine populations and to begin to recover the patterns of anthropogenic reshuffling of the ocean's biota. These approaches stand to aid materially in the development of effective management strategies and sustainable science-based policies. Continued advancements in the statistical analysis of genetic data promise to overcome some existing limitations of current approaches. Still other limitations will be best addressed by concerted collaborative and multidisciplinary efforts that recognize the important synergy between understanding the extent of biological invasions and coming to a more complete picture of both modern-day and historical marine biogeography. © 2010 by Annual Reviews.
News Article | December 19, 2016
American scientists surveying the depths of the ocean off the coast of California and Hawaii have unwittingly filmed the mysterious ghost shark for the first time. The team from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Center had sent a remote operated vehicle down to depths of 2,000 metres (6,700ft) when the creature appeared on their screens. Also known as chimaeras, the creatures are related to sharks and rays. But unlike their namesakes, ghost sharks have tooth plates instead of teeth and open channels on their heads and faces that give them the appearance of having been stitched together like a rag doll. Most remarkably perhaps, they have a retractable penis on their heads. Dave Ebert, program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories told National Geographic that the discovery of the creature – proper name is Hydrolagus trolli – was “dumb luck”. The footage was captured in 2009 but it has taken the team several years to confirm that the creature on the film is a type of ghost shark known as a pointy-nosed blue chimaera. The species is usually found near Australia and New Zealand and has never been filmed alive in its natural habitat before. It is also believed to be the first time they have been seen in the northern hemisphere.
News Article | December 17, 2016
This image provided by NOAA shows a deep-sea Chimaera. Chimaera’s are most closely related to sharks, although their evolutionary lineage branched off from sharks nearly 300 million years ago, and they have remained an isolated group ever since. According to scientists the lateral lines running across this chimaera are mechano-receptors that detect pressure waves (just like ears). The dotted-looking lines on the frontal portion of the face (near the mouth) are ampullae de lorenzini and they detect perturbations in electrical fields generated by living organisms. —In a rare serendipitous sighting, scientists captured videos of an eerie bluish grey shark swimming in Northern Hemisphere waters. The "ghost shark" captured on film is actually not a shark, but a chimaera – a relative that split off evolutionarily from its toothy cousins about 300 million years ago. These deep-water creatures are only known to live near New Zealand and Australia, although marine biologists say that this video footage could indicate a greater range than they previously realized. “Normally, people probably wouldn’t have been looking around in this area, so it’s a little bit of dumb luck,” program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Dave Ebert, according to the National Geographic. Researchers didn’t set out to find Hydrolagus trolli, or the pointy-nosed blue chimaera, when they sent a remote operated vehicle to explore the deep waters off of California and Hawaii in 2009. Instead, the scientists involved in the project were geologists - but they hit a marine biology motherlode anyway. The chimaera is also known as the rabbitfish, ratfish, or ghost shark, and prefers the colder waters of the deep ocean. Physically, these ghost sharks are somewhat of a throwback to their marine dinosaur ancestors, with eerie lines tracing its head and body. The footage from those dives was finally released this week by the Monteray Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and if the creature featured in the videos is confirmed to be a pointy-nosed blue chimaera, it will be the first time scientists have spotted one in the Northern Hemisphere. “The only way we can collect these species is by trawling,” Millersville University chimaera expert Dominique Didier told National Geographic. “So, it's like a snapshot. Imagine trying to understand species distribution in Lake Michigan and you sample the lake using a Dixie cup. Trawling the ocean is like that.” “I suspect many species are wide-ranging– we just don't have the data.” Researchers published a study on the pointy-nosed blue chimaera in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records this week. It has been a good year for shark researchers, with north Atlantic shark researchers making the first-ever discovery of a great white shark nursery in the waters off the coast of New York, as The Christian Science Monitor reported: In January, marine biologists also discovered a sand shark nursery in New York waters, close to Long Island.