A ghastly fish with enormous, fearsome teeth that resemble fans dwells deep in the water.
The appropriately called common fangtooth fish (Anoplogaster cornuta), sometimes known as the “ogrefish,” lives in deep waters all over the world, typically between 650 and 6,500 feet below the surface, however it has been seen as deep as 16,000 feet. This makes it one of the fish that can live the deepest.
According to Tracey Sutton, a professor with the Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, fangtooth fish typically spend their time in waters deeper than 3,300 feet in the open ocean far from land, although they occasionally rise close to the surface at night to feed.
According to Sutton, “The one species is genuinely a child of the Earth, existing in all but the polar seas.”
In the roughly 30 years that the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has been using remotely operated vehicles to undertake deep-sea missions, the creature has only been sighted less than ten times by humans. The fish may not actually be rare despite this, though.
Sutton stated that despite being a loner, not occurring in groups, and not being prevalent in any particular region, “it fills practically all of the entire deep ocean, thus its overall numbers could potentially be staggeringly huge.”
There is just one species in its family that has been positively identified, but a second one was reported from a specimen that was a juvenile but was never found as an adult, according to Sutton. There are no known close relatives of fangtooth fish.
Despite being little (the common fangtooth fish grows to a length of around 6 to 7 inches), this species is distinguished by its “large” head and teeth in comparison to the rest of its body.
This fish has a great number of long, pointed teeth in its mouth, including two sets of massive fangs on both the lower and upper jaw, which allow it to grasp and hold on to prey of various sizes. This is an advantageous adaption for the deep sea, where food is scarce.
Instead of lying in wait for prey like other ambush predators, which may employ various enticing strategies, common fangtooths prefer to be more active than many other deep-sea fishes and will head near the surface at night to find food.
Other fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods—the class of creatures that includes octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish—all make up the common fangtooth’s diet.
A fangtooth fish expands its enormous mouth and swallows its prey animal inside as it approaches.
They seem to eat anything that would fit in their mouths, according to Sutton, who described them as voracious.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, this species’ teeth are greater than those of any other marine species when compared to body size. The fish has unique pouches on the roof of its mouth to fit the lower jaw’s fangs when the mouth is closed since they are so large.
The fangtooth has an unusually prominent lateral line, a sensory system found in fish and aquatic amphibians, which helps it sense movement and vibrations in the surrounding water. This species has relatively poor eyesight but to make up for this, as well as the low light conditions in the water where it lives, the fangtooth.
“Its skull is covered in an intricate network of nerves. In a sense, it uses its face as a microphone, “said Sutton.
According to Sutton, this network of nerves forms the “front end” of the lateral line system. It explains the extensive “sculpting” on the fangtooth’s face’s front, which is visible in the picture above.
The dark brown to black colouring of the common fangtooth fish makes it easier for the fish to blend in with its surroundings in the deep ocean, which is useful for collecting prey or avoiding predators. Additionally, it has spines and prickly scales all over its body.
The fangtooth fish breed by external fertilisation, in which the female lays a clutch of eggs while the male releases sperm into the water to fertilise them. However, because they dwell so deep down, scientists know very little about their life and reproduction habits.
Although the fish do not have many predators, marlin and tuna do hunt them. Even though fangtooth fish reside far from human settlements, they are nonetheless under danger from a number of human-made factors.
Sutton claims that certain activities, such deep-sea mining and fossil fuel exploration, can harm deepwater ecosystems “catastrophically,” as was the case during the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
As coastal fisheries become depleted, “fisheries are also growing into deep pelagic waters (being neither close to the bottom nor near the shore),” Sutton added. Last but not least, it is projected that climate change will alter ocean circulation, which will decrease the diversity of pelagic life.
One of the countless species that are believed to exist in the deep ocean and the majority of which humans have never seen or described is the fangtooth fish. The vampire squid, dumbo octopuses, and bloody-belly comb jellies are a few of these strange and fascinating deep-ocean species.