A Spotted Ratfish,Close Up

Photo by: Svetlana Foote

Svetlana Foote

Rare Baby Ghost Shark Discovered Off New Zealand Coast

Scientists hope the ‘very rare’ finding will fill in research gaps about the elusive species.

February 17, 2022

3,900 feet below the surface, scientists in New Zealand found a “mysterious creature.” They discovered the newly-hatched ghost shark on the Chatham Rise, a part of the ocean floor located off the eastern coast of the South Island.

Ghost sharks, or chimaera, are deep-water animals closely related to sharks and rays. These cartilaginous fish are also sometimes called ratfish, spook fish, and rabbitfish.

They lay eggs on the seafloor where the embryos feed off the egg yolk until they hatch. A scientist on the team who discovered the baby ghost shark said they were able to identify the shark as a baby because its stomach was still full of egg yolk.

"We don't actually know a lot about ghost sharks," said Brit Finucci, a fisheries scientist on the study. "What we do know mostly comes from adult specimens. So it's very rare and very uncommon to find juveniles of a lot of these species, so that's why I got quite excited."

Because ghost sharks make their home in very deep water, they are difficult to study. While the exact species of ghost shark isn’t known yet, scientists hope this discovery will help inform their knowledge of this mysterious creature.



A Mermaid's purse, a casing that surrounds the fertilized eggs of some sharks, skates, and chimaeras. They are made of collagen protein strands.

Photo by: Universal History Archive

Universal History Archive

A Mermaid's purse, a casing that surrounds the fertilized eggs of some sharks, skates, and chimaeras. They are made of collagen protein strands.

"We're hoping this will give us some more indication about the biology and ecology," said Finucci. Researchers are using this shark to account for biological differences between juvenile and adult members of the subclass.

Finucci added, "We're not sure what we're going to find, which is also quite exciting."

Next Up

Everything You Need to Know about the Daily Bite

SHARK WEEK returns July 11 on Discovery and discovery+. This year, take a dive deeper with THE DAILY BITE PODCAST. Marine biologist Luke Tipple interviews the top experts behind SHARK WEEK, getting a behind-the-scenes take on their adventures and research -- from close calls and dangerous deep sea dives to the new discoveries and conservation happening today.

New Canadian Law is Great News for Mako Sharks

Canada has become the first North Atlantic country to put a longstanding recommendation from conservation scientists to protect Mako sharks into law.

Baby Sharks are in Hot Water

Climate change impacts everything. From rising ocean levels to record-breaking wildfires, we can see the changes occurring with our own eyes. One of the most resilient species of all time is the shark. Warming waters are challenging their ability to adapt, and one of the signs of the times is smaller baby sharks that are having a hard time surviving.

No, This Weird Shark Species is Not a Spongebob Character

Is it a lumpy carpet? A steamrolled toad? A character from Spongebob Squarepants? Nope, it’s the tasseled wobbegong shark.

The Shark Atoll of Palmyra

Palmyra Atoll is an uninhabited coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean that is part of a massive oceanic conservation area known as Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. It's vital to the health of our world's oceans and it's filled with sharks.

Shark Flings Itself Out of Water to Avoid Becoming Orca’s Snack

A sevengill shark flings itself out of the water and onto rocks to avoid becoming an orca's meal.

What Happens When a Great White Can’t Breach?

Fun fact on great whites who never get airborne.

COVID-19 Vaccine Development Threatens Shark Populations

Conservationists warn that half a million sharks could be killed and harvested to develop the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines. But what do sharks have to do with vaccines? One word: squalene.

Swimming with Sharks

One research foundation is working to change public perception of sharks by taking people swimming with them – without a cage.

Are Shark Attacks on the Rise? Not Really.

Maine had its first recorded deadly shark attack this week. We talk to experts about what is going on in the ocean and share some tips if you find yourselves in close contact with a shark.

Related To: