A fishing trawler off the coast of Newfoundland recently hauled up a creature from the depths of the ocean that made even experienced fishermen do a double take.
Scott Tanner was on board when crews pulled up the fish — which looks somewhat like a bird, with a long, pointy snout, bright neon green eyes, and ribbed fins that resemble feathered wings.
“All the production stopped and everything so everybody could check it out,” he said.
“Even the older guys that are 50, 60 years old, they’ve seen maybe one in their lifetime so they thought it was pretty neat and I snapped a couple pictures.”
It wasn’t until Tanner got back home to Nova Scotia that he looked up what species the fish might be. He believes it is a longnose chimaera, a deepwater species rarely caught.
“There’s lots of other weird stuff that comes out [of the ocean] but that one definitely stood out … I don’t imagine many people have seen one,” Tanner told CBC News.
Greek word for mythic animal
The California Academy of Sciences says chimaeras are a group of cartilaginous fish that branched off from sharks nearly 400 million years ago.
Chimaera is a Greek word used to describe a mythic monster. The longnose variety is found off Nova Scotia and in various other parts of the Atlantic Ocean. They feed on shrimp and crabs and are harmless to humans.
Dalhousie University biology Prof. Jeffrey Hutchings says the photos Tanner took do appear to show a longnose chimaera, also known as a knifenose chimaera.
He says they are quite uncommon as they are normally only found at a depth of more than several hundred metres.
‘Winged fish with evil eyes’
Tanner, who is from Lunenburg on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, posted pictures on his Facebook page and within a few days they travelled around the world, getting picked up by websites such as Reddit and even a U.K. tabloid.
The Daily Star dubbed it a “winged fish with evil eyes.”
The find happened one month into a 42-day fishing expedition by a 58-metre-long fish dragger in the waters off the Grand Banks and St. Pierre and Miquelon.
Like much of the fish pulled in as byproduct while dragging nets for cod and redfish, the chimaera died due to the pressure change, Tanner says. It was eventually loaded onto a conveyer belt and dumped back in the ocean.
Tanner, who typically fishes for scallops, says it likely won’t be his last trip on a dragger.
“You never know what you might find now,” he said.