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Discovery Magazine 6/1/2008

Ghost Sharks on the Loose!

The Latin word chimaera means monster, so the name “chimaera” perfectly fits these strange-looking, scaleless ghost sharks. There are about 25 species of chimaera. Like sharks, all chimaera have a thick body and a cartilaginous (CAR-tuh-LÄ-juh-nus) skeleton. A cartilaginous skeleton is made of cartilage (firm, flexible tissue) instead of bone.

The chimaera is similar to a shark or ray in many ways, but is different from sharks because it lacks the sharp, replaceable teeth of sharks. Instead, the chimaera has rat-like teeth. Also, the chimaera’s skin is different. It has only a single pair of gill slits, and its upper jaw is attached to its skull. Even though the chimaera is not a shark, we should still avoid it. Most chimaera have a venomous spine directly in front of their dorsal fin. This sharp spine can inflict painful wounds on humans or animal predators, which include larger fish and sharks. The largest chimaera reach a length of about six and a half feet.

Chimaera are called “deep-water fish” because they usually roam near ocean floors. Australian ghost sharks, for example, live in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, along the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. They migrate to inshore bays in the Spring for mating. The Australian ghost shark is easy to recognize because of the club-like projection on its snout. This lobed, trunk-like snout, which includes pores that sense movement and weak electrical fields, makes hunting for food much easier. Ghost sharks such as these can even detect buried shellfish.

The various types of chimaera are unusual, but remember that God has provided them with the perfect body structures for life in the ocean. It is impossible that the chimaera evolved.



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