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Ocean Studies



Life in the Deep Many species of deep ocean fish have special adaptations to living in extremely high pressure, low light conditions. Viper fish (Mesopelagic - found at 80-1600 meters - about a mile down) are some of the most wicked looking fish dredged up from the depths. These fish have adapted to take advantage of the sparse food supply of the deep in some amazing ways. Some of them are black as night all over to blend in with the constant darkness - a form of camouflage. They also have light organs (called photophores) in strategic places on their bodies, including one on a long dorsal fin that serves as a lure for the fish it preys upon. These light organs create lights by using a chemical process called bioluminescence*. Many also have flexible stomachs which can expand and stretch to accommodate a fish much larger than itself. Handy to have when food doesn't come along very often. Some viperfish (and many other deep ocean fish species) don't have any pigment (color) at all - they're "see through". They also have enlarged eyes, presumably for gathering as much light as possible where there is little or no light at all. All of these handy features combine to make the Viper Fish look like an Alien from another planet. Another fascinating adaptation of deep ocean fish is the enormous, sharp fang-like teeth so many of them have, like the Fangtooth (at left) and the Viper fish. Some of them, like the Viper fish and the Black Dragon fish have teeth so incredibly long they can't even close their mouths! Perhaps they serve as a mouthful of 'spears' for the fish, enabling them to rapidly seize and kill passing prey that seldomly venture near so there's little chance of escaping into the surrounding blackness. Other deep ocean fish, such as the the gulper eel (below) have a hinged skull, which can rotate upward to swallow large prey. The gulper eel is particularly well-known for its impossibly large mouth - big enough to get its mouth around (and swallow!) creatures much bigger than itself. Fish that live down here must adapt to a very low food supply, eating only "scraps" that sink down from above, or sometimes eating each other.
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