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#WeirdAnimalWednesday: Meet the Black Dragonfish (and other Creatures of the Deep)

posted: 07/15/15
by: Danny Clemens

A recent expedition to explore 50-million-year-old sunken volcanoes off of the coast of Australia yielded surprising photos of the shocking creatures of the deep:

Black dragonfish in Australia
Marine National Facility/Derek Cruz

The bioluminescent black dragonfish (Idiacanthus atlanticus) is found at deep depths in temperate oceans across the globe. Female dragonfish can grow to be more than a foot long, while males max out around two inches -- such striking differences between sexes are known as sexual dimorphism, according to Quarks to Quasars. Unfortunately for the fun-sized male dragonfish, they have no teeth, no chin barbel and no digestive system: their main role is to aid their lengthy lady lovers in sexual reproduction. The males may be small, but they know what they're working with!

Unlike many other bioluminescent fish that use their light to attract prey, the dragonfish can actually see its own light -- the built-in deep-sea flashlight can help it hunt more efficiently, says the WWF.

These photos were taken during an expedition originally intended to investigate nursery grounds for larval lobsters. The trip took a surprising twist when the state-of-the-art equipment on the research vessel Investigator took note of four sunken volcanoes, submerged nearly three miles beneath the ocean's surface.

Chauliodontidae
Marine National Facility

After the ancient volcanoes erupted, the land around them collapsed, forming a sort of crater -- the entire formation is known as a caldera.

"They tell us part of the story of how New Zealand and Australia separated around 40-80 million years ago and they'll now help scientists target future exploration of the sea floor to unlock the secrets of the Earth's crust," explains Australian National University Professor Richard Arculus.

Holocentridae
Marine National Facility

Click here to learn more about the expedition.

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