Friday, May 24, 2013

Creature Feature: Loosejaw Stoplight Fish.

Ah, back to the deepsea abyss. Regardless of how many people treat space as the final frontier, we have yet to truly know our own planet. Even taking deep sea trawling into account and having orange roughy constantly in classy restaurants, the abyss is almost as unknown as the rainforest. How similar can things down there be to life on land when it evolved without sunlight? The Sumerians believed that their embodiment of the ocean, Tiamat, birthed unholy monstrosities; they were right.


Check out this thing: the stoplight loosejaw (Malacosteus niger). It is a denizen of the deepsea abyss, eating anything large enough to catch in its teeth. It is not a very big fish by any means - only 25 cm long. A lot of abyssal fish are shown with the lens zoomed in; even the largest anglerfish can easily fit in the palm of one's hand. Just because it's easy cat food doesn't mean it isn't neat.

The stoplight fish gets its name from a single unique trait: it can produce not one, but two different colors of bioluminescence. It makes red and blue-green light - just like a traffic signal. Blue-green light passes well in the ocean depths; nine out of ten times, things will give off blue light if they glow in the depths. Red light is like its private hunting and communication signal; it also means that red-colored things are not safe from this fish's extending head.


Yes, the "loosejaw" part comes from a very loose jaw indeed. In fact, it can dislocate its entire head to snap up edibles. The only other thing that does that is a dragonfly nymph - an invertebrate. That's how creepy-cool abyssal stuff is: it can all but behead itself on a regular basis and be fine. C'mon, Hollywood- make a monster out of this. Swallowing things like that is a talent.

Don't be fooled by Ariel. The bottom of the ocean is not a place full of happy sea creatures singing about how great life is. It's a place of psychedelic darkness trying to kill you with pretty lights and jaws out of nowhere. 

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