Shark Week Discovery channel kills Ghost Shark

Discovery Channel goes deep below the ocean in Alien Sharks 2: Return to the Abyss. The out of this world special features rarely seen sharks including a new species of Ghost Shark discovered by lead researcher Paul J. Clerkin, a graduate researcher at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in Moss Landing, California. It’s not a supernatural shark like the one featured in the Syfy movie Ghost Shark. In fact, it’s not even a true shark. The Ghost Shark is a Chimaera, a separate class of cartilaginous fishes that split off from sharks 400 million years ago.

“A Chimaera is a family in the genus. There’s a lot of species in the genus but this one’s the new species,” Clerkin explained later on Shark After Dark. “I haven’t come up with a species name for it so it would be Chimaera Paul… no just kidding.”

The aptly named Ghost Shark seems to float as large pectoral fins make sweeping motions. There’s nothing to fear from this ghost, which lives miles under the ocean. Unlike its sharp-toothed cousins, Chimaeras have rows of tooth plates used grind shellfish.

Newly discovered sharks are typically released but the Ghost Shark had severely damaged skin and did not survive the encounter. It didn’t die in vain Clerkin reassured watchers.

“First of all, we know it exists,” the marine biologist asserted. “If you don’t know something exists, you can’t do any research on it. You can’t protect the species. There’s nothing you can do to manage the fishery. The most important thing is we know it exists. We have location data. We got maturity data on it so we have life history data. We can start figuring out where these guys live. What they eat. How old they grow. All that stuff. Going from knowing nothing about from them to a pretty good picture.”

The special featured other ghostly sharks that use bioluminescence to light up the dark ocean waters. The Southern lanternshark has a blue-green belly light that camouflages its shadow from predators below. The Megamouth shark has a glowing mouth that lures in krill.

Alien Sharks 2: Return to the Abyss re-airs Saturday 5 p.m., Aug 16 on Discovery Channel and Tuesday 8 p.m., Aug 19 on Animal Planet.