Researchers are exploring the depths of the Pacific Northwest, to find the nesting grounds of the Pacific spotted ratfish.
In a bid to learn more about ghost sharks, researchers from the University of Florida (UF) and the Seattle Aquarium are using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to explore the oceanic depths 100 meters below the surface of the Pacific Northwest.
In particular, they want to find the nesting grounds of the Pacific spotted ratfish, as currently very little is known about their spawning habits and embryonic development.
“If we can locate their embryos, we can begin to learn about the developmental processes that lead to some weird morphologies, or biological characteristics, unique to these fishes,” said Gareth Fraser, an assistant professor of biology at UF.
Also called chimaeras, ghost sharks typically live in deep waters. However, during the summer, there are some places, like in the Salish Sea along the coast of Washington, where they would enter more shallow waters to breed and feed.
In the previous year, Fraser and others in other parts of the world had some success locating adult ghost sharks in deep-water trawling projects; however, studying them when they are adult did not reveal much about their developmental process.
In the coming weeks, the ROV would be deployed in Elliot Bay in Puget Sound, and other locations around the San Juan Islands. It would be covered in cameras so as to record 360-degree views and subsequently reproduce for viewers a virtual reality scene of the ocean depths.
“This will take us to the waters off Washington state, so that we can swim with these ghost sharks virtually and get an up-close, panoramic view of their environment,” said Fraser.