SUBCLASS HOLOCHPHALI: CHIMAERAS
The small group of six genera of 30 species of chimaeras are called after the chimaera of Greek Mythology, a she-monster with a lion’s head, goat’s body and serpent’s tail. Chimaeras are also known as rat fish or rabbit fish. The four gill openings are covered by a single operculum. The upper jaw is fused to the cranium. All chimaeras live in subartic or subantartic waters, often at great depths. They are poor slow swimmers progressing close to the bottom by flapping their pectoral fins. Their teeth are fused together to form a solid beak for crushing shells of crustaceans or molluscs. A spine with a venom producing sac is in front of the dorsal fin. The female moves into shallow water to lay her fairly large eggs which have a hard leathery shell. The male has a clasper, of unknown function, on his head as well as claspers on his pelvic fins.
Chimaera monstrosa, a blunt-nosed chimaera (Family Chimaeridae). Most species of chimaeras are 60 – 90 cm long but the blunt-nosed chimaera may reach 1.8 – 2.2 metres and weigh 25 kg. This specimen is about 54 cm long: the long whip-like tail is 24 cm long - almost half the length of the fish and curled up alongside to fit in the jar.