Temporal range: Early Devonian-Recent [1]
Hydrolagus colliei.jpg
Hydrolagus colliei
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Holocephali
Order: Chimaeriformes
Obruchev, 1953


Chimaeras [1] are cartilaginous fishes in the order Chimaeriformes, known informally as ghost sharks, rat fish (not to be confused with the rattails), spookfish (not to be confused with the true spookfish of the family Opisthoproctidae), or rabbit fish (not to be confused with the true rabbitfishes of the family Siganidae).

At one time, a "diverse and abundant" group (based on the fossil record), their closest living relatives are sharks, though in evolutionary terms, they branched off from sharks nearly 400 million years ago and have remained isolated ever since. [2] Today, they are largely confined to deep water. [3]

Description and habits

Chimaera egg case
Deep-sea chimaera photographed by the NOAAS Okeanos Explorer. Visible on its snout are tiny pores which lead to electroreceptor cells.

Chimaeras live in temperate ocean floors down to 2,600 m (8,500 ft) deep, with few occurring at depths shallower than 200 m (660 ft). Exceptions include the members of the genus Callorhinchus, the rabbit fish and the spotted ratfish, which locally or periodically can be found at relatively shallow depths. Consequently, these are also among the few species from the Chimaera order kept in public aquaria. [4] They have elongated, soft bodies, with a bulky head and a single gill-opening. They grow up to 150 cm (4.9 ft) in length, although this includes the lengthy tail found in some species. In many species, the snout is modified into an elongated sensory organ. [5]

Like other members of the class Chondrichthyes, chimaera skeletons are constructed of cartilage. Their skin is smooth and largely covered by placoid scales, and their color can range from black to brownish gray. For defense, most chimaeras have a venomous spine in front of the dorsal fin.

Chimaeras resemble sharks in some ways: they employ claspers for internal fertilization of females and they lay eggs with leathery cases. They also use electroreception to find their prey. [6] However, unlike sharks, male chimaeras also have retractable sexual appendages on the forehead (a type of tentaculum) [7] and in front of the pelvic fins. [5] The females lay eggs in spindle-shaped, leathery egg cases. [1]

They also differ from sharks in that their upper jaws are fused with their skulls and they have separate anal and urogenital openings. They lack sharks' many sharp and replaceable teeth, having instead just three pairs of large permanent grinding tooth plates. They also have gill covers or opercula like bony fishes. [5]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Chimaeriformes
العربية: خرافيات (سمك)
azərbaycanca: Ximerkimilər
беларуская: Хімерападобныя
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Хімэрападобныя
bosanski: Himere
dansk: Chimaera
Deutsch: Seekatzen
español: Chimaeriformes
Esperanto: Ĥimero (fiŝo)
فارسی: موش‌ماهی
français: Chimaeriformes
한국어: 은상어목
hrvatski: Himere (ribe)
עברית: כימראים
қазақша: Химерліктер
lietuvių: Chimeržuvės
македонски: Химера
Nederlands: Draakvissen
日本語: ギンザメ目
پښتو: خيميران
português: Chimaeriformes
română: Chimaeriformes
Simple English: Chimaera (fish)
српски / srpski: Химере
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Himere (ribe)
українська: Химероподібні
中文: 银鲛目