When a fisherman hauled in this alien-like animal from the deep, he was taken aback. When Oscar Lundahl spotted the strange-looking species with bulbous eyes, he nearly leaped out of his fishing boat. The Latin name of the ratfish, Chimaeras Monstrosa Linnaeus, is derived from a Greek legendary creature with the head of a lion and the tail of a dragon. Because they reside in deep water, the strange animals are rarely captured. It is thought that their enormous eyes evolved to enable them to see in such dark depths.
Oscar, a 19-year-old fishing guide with Nordic Sea Angling, captured the small beast by accident at Andoya island off the coast of northern Norway. ‘We were fishing for blue halibut, which is a rare species approximately five kilometers off coast,’ he explained. I had four hooks on one line and felt something very large at the end. Because it was 800 meters deep, it took me about 30 minutes to reel it in. I was excited because there were two halibuts on two of the hooks, but then I noticed something unexpected. It was incredible; I’d never seen anything like it before. It just seemed strange, almost dinosaur-like. I had no idea what it was, but my coworker knew.’
The fish, which prefer crabs and sea snails and are thus safe to humans, have been around for 300 million years. The ratfish did not survive being drawn up from the sea due to the rapid shift in pressure. Oscar brought it home and pan-fried fillets with butter. ‘Despite its terrible appearance, it was incredibly excellent,’ he remarked. It’s similar to cod but much better.’