Just in time for Halloween, the YouTube video below shows the first video of an elusive Spookfish or Barreleye: Macropinna microstoma , filmed using remotely operated vehicles 600-800 metres under water off the coast of California in 2004 by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). The species had been described first in the literature by Chapman in 1939, who found the species off the Pacific coast of Canada - but it has been difficult to see the fish in action until recently because of the depth at which they live and the fact that relatively few live specimens have been caught, and those have not survived long after capture.
In their 2008 paper based on the work they did at the MBARI, Bruce Robison and Kim Reisenbichler describe some of the unusual features of the fish, which is particularly interesting to me because of the structure and function of its sensory organs. The two "dots" on the front of the head, which look like eyes, are actually the fish's olfactory organs (like nostrils on our noses). The tubular eyes themselves are encased within the liquid-filled transparent head, capped with the green lenses seen in the still below - there the eyes are pointing upward. When the fish moves from its typical horizontal position (to detect prey) to the vertical position (to catch it), its eyes can actually rotate within the transparent dome to keep track of the prey as it moves. Because the fish may need to swim through swarms of jellyfish to get food, researchers speculate that the transparent dome of a head serves to protect the fish's unusual eyes from stings.
You can read more about this incredible fish at the MBARI site: http://goo.gl/J4r5J or in the original article: Robison, B. and K.R. Reisenbichler (2008). Macropinna microstoma and the paradox of its tubular eyes. Copeia, 4: 780-784.
h/t to for the link - would love to know if knows more about Macropinna microstoma .
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