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Monsters of the Ocean: The Grotesque Pacific Viperfish

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The pacific viperfish, Chauliodus sloani, is one of the most grotesque-looking deep ocean fish in existence; the kind of fish that could be featured in a horror movie. These deep-sea demons reach only about 25 centimeters long and have long, thin, dark silver-blue bodies, vaguely resembling that of a snake. They have proportionately enormous head and jaws, with large eyes and extremely long, needle-like teeth that angle back from the lower jaw. The teeth of the viperfish are so long that they do not fit in its mouth; in fact, they extend far enough back that it can poke its own eyes out if it closes its mouth fully.

The Pacific viperfish troll the depths up to 4,400 meter below, though they have been known to swim up to within a few hundred meters of the surface at night. Like many deep sea creatures, they have a varied diet, feeding mainly on shrimp, plankton and other small fish, but occasionally catching a larger fish, which they are able to overpower and swallow with the help of their large, hinged jaws and strong jaw muscles.

Pacific viperfish are heavily equipped with photophores, which are patches of bioluminescent bacteria that help it lure its prey. Two rows of photophores extend along the back of its body, and it has a high concentration of photophores in its mouth. It also has a long, thin lure that extends from its dorsal fin.

*The article was published in the PSC Newslertter, Summer 2012 issue.

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