Monday, June 11, 2012

Sea Monsters on film!!

Lol not really!

But the ocean really is full of amazing and sometimes terrifying creatures. No doubt that a few sightings of some of these beasties contributed to many ancient tales of sea monsters. Here I'll count down the top 15 weirdest bony fish in the ocean. I didn't count in sharks and rays because that's a whole different article. So here we go!

# 15 Mackerel Icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari)

Mackerel Icefish (fishindex.blogspot.com)

This unique little guy spends his life deep in the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica where the water often approaches freezing. Their blood lacks hemoglobin and red blood cells earning them their clear appearance as seen in the pictures above. They are able to survive without these oxygen-carrying proteins because the oxygen content of the water is so high. They also have an antifreeze protein in their blood to prevent the buildup of ice crystals.

# 14 Mudskippers (Periophthalmus spp)

Atlantic mudskipper, Periophthalmus barbarus (Bjørn Tørrissen)

These fish are amphibians. They move more efficiently on land than they do in water. They still need water to survive, but using their powerful pectoral muscles they can "skip" around on land. And they actually prefer land to water. They can breathe through their skin, but it needs to be moist to do so. They even lay their eggs on land. These fish can be kept in very specialized home aquariums;  the water should be brackish and these fish need an area of land to hop about.



# 13 Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Sunfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium (Fred Hsu)

This fish is widely considered the largest bony fish. They average about 5.9 ft (1.8 m) in length and 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) in weight, although individuals up to 10.8 ft (3.3 m) in length 14 ft (4.2 m) across the fins and weighing up to 5,100 lb (2,300 kg) have been observed. It can grow so large because the fish displays delayed calcification of the bones. Their caudal fin is distorted into a psuedo-tail called a clavis which gives them their distinctive shape. They swim using their dorsal and anal fins. These fish got their name from the tendency to lie on their side near the surface and allow birds and cleaner wrasse to remove parasites from their skin. While they may be huge, they eat relatively small jellyfish and are very peaceful fish.  

# 12 Longhorn cowfish (Lactoria cornuta)

Cowfish (Dein Freund der Baum)

Don't get out your lasso just yet. This guy is only about 1 foot long. They live in tropical reefs in Indo-Pacific. They are in the same order as puffer fish and the Ocean Sunfish. They are known to produce a toxin similar to pufferfish when stressed. This is because they are closely related to puffers.With the right size setup, this is one of two fish in this article that can be kept in home aquariums.

# 11 Giant Oarfish (Regalecus glesne)

Giant Oarfish that washed ashore in Oregon in 1996 (public domain)

Sometimes known as the "King of Herrings" although it is not related to herrings. It has the title of being the longest bony fish in the world with a max reported length of 65ft (17 m). This other-worldly creature is one that surely spawned a lot of sea monster legends. Just look at the pictures and you can see why. Live specimens are rarely seen as they spend a lot of their time at deep depths, which adds to the mystery of the creature.

# 10 Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

Leafy sea dragon (public domain)

While it has dragon in the name, this seahorse relative is nothing like the mythical beasts. It floats along using its fleshy protrusions to camouflage itself. The leafy seadragon can also change its color to better camouflage itself. It is one of the most spectacular examples of camouflage: neither prey nor predators recognize it as a fish. Its long snout is used to suck up small fish and shrimp.  It's found on reefs with kelp in the south of Australia. Like most seahorses, the father broods the eggs in his pouch. But unlike most seahorses the tail of the leafy seadragon is not prehensile. 



# 9 Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker (Eumicrotremus orbis)

Spiny and toad lumpsucker (public domain)

Lumpsucker is a very appropriate name for this little guy as it looks more like a lump than a fish. Its pelvic fins are modified into an adhesive disk that allows these strange fish to maintain a firm grip on rocks because they don't move around a great deal. They catch food as it passes by.

# 8 Spotted Handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus)

Spotted handfish showing off his "hand" (credit in photo)

Ever seen a fish with hands? This strange little guy doesn't have hands, but his modified pectoral fins look really close. This guy uses his pectorals to "walk" across the ocean floor. They only live in Australia and are in big trouble due to an introduced starfish that consumes its eggs. They are only being recorded in the estuary of Derwent River, Tasmania, and nearby areas. The IUCN lists them as critically endangered.

# 7 Barreleyes (Macropinna microstoma)

Image of Barreleyes captured on deepsea dive (MBARI)

Otherwise known as the fish with a glass head, this strange fish hangs motionless in the waters between 2,000 ft (600 m) to 2,600 ft (800 m), in the depths where almost no light reaches. The top of its head is filled with a clear liquid. It turns its barrel-shaped eyes skyward and watches for food to fall. When it sees food, the eyes swivel back into place and it swims toward its food. Creepy, no? 




# 6 Fangtooth (Anoplogaster cornuta)

Fangtooth (PBS online)

This tiny terror of the deep has the largest teeth relative to body size of all the fishes. In adults, the largest two fangs of the lower jaw are so long that the fangtooths have a pair of opposing sockets on either side of the brain to accommodate the teeth when the mouth is closed. Juvenile fangtooth look so different from adults that they were once classified as a separate species.

# 5 Gulper eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoides)

Gulper eel (National Geographic)

Another oddity of the deep. This fish is almost all mouth and can swallow fish much larger than itself with its loosely hinged jaw. At the end of its whip-like tail are organs that glow presumably to attract prey. This fish only grows to 3 ft (1 m) so you only have to worry about it gulping up your dogs and children ;)

# 4 Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus)

Blobfish on the surface (fishindex.blogspot.com)

Dubbed the "most miserable-looking fish" the blobfish is the result of the high-pressure environment in which it resides. With pressures being several times that what occurs at normal sea levels buoyancy via a swim bladder is inefficient. The blobfish remedies this by being a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than that of water. It has almost no muscle mass, but that doesn't both it because it just gulps any edible matter that floats in front of its face. Unfortunately this sad little blob could one day become extinct. Because of its inability to swim rapidly it often gets caught in deepsea trawling nets. It is only known to exist in one area off the coast of Australia where trawlers fish for crab and lobster. Sadfish is sad.

# 3 Fanfin Seadevil (Caulophryne jordani)

Fanfin seadevil female (MBARI)

This is the stuff nightmares are made of. This member of the anglerfish family rightfully earns the name seadevil. But the fact that it only grows to 4.3 in (11 cm) takes away a lot of the fright factor. The Fanfin Seadevil is distinguished from other anglerfish in that it does not rely on biolumincense to attract prey. Male anglerfish are also a neat thing (ladies, you'll like this one). Male anglerfish don't grow nearly as large as female anglerfish. Their sole purpose in life is to seek out the females. Once they do they latch onto the female and become parasitic. Their bodies whittle away to nothing but testes with their only purpose being to provide sperm for the female's eggs. This is because mates are so hard to find in the deep sea, that once you have one its best to stick with that one until it’s all over.

# 2 Red-lipped Batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini)

Red-lipped batfish (National Geographic)

This guy gives the blobfish a run for its money as the grumpiest fish in the ocean. Found only around the Galapagos Islands this strange creature doesn't swim across the ocean floor; like the handfish, it walks across it using its pectoral fins. In adulthood the dorsal fin modifies to become the fleshy protrusion in front of its face. It's used to attract prey and give it the appearance of a nose. Personally, I think this is the ugliest fish in the ocean. The handfish, batfish, and seadevil are all types of anglerfish (Order: Lophiiformes) and have many more creepy cousins. The first minute of the video below shows this strange fish in action.



# 1 Psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica)

Not an altered photo (credit in image)

No you are not tripping. This is an actual fish. This recently described fish earns the title of weirdest fish in the ocean not just for its groovy pattern but its mode of locomotion. While it often walks along the bottom using its pectoral fins, it can also shoot a jet of water through its gills and jettison itself. During this motion it takes on a ball shape and literally bounces along the ocean floor. You can see this in the video below. The odd shape of its face also gives it depth perception believed to be similar to that of humans. It's associated with coral reefs and has only been found on Ambon Island in Indonesia thus far. Don't stare at its eyes too long.




So that concludes our tour of weird fishes of the sea! If you think I left out something else strange post it, too! Fishbase.org was my main source as well as numerous other sites such as National Geographic, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Arkive.org.

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