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Deep-Sea Bestiary
Part 2 (back to Part 1)

You wouldn't want to meet a hungry Saccopharynx lavenbergi in the depths. These babies can reach six feet in length, have rows of sharp little teeth, and, like pythons of the deep, can swallow prey much fatter than themselves. They down victims whole, of course, which is why they're called "gulpers." They simply ease them through their "sack-gullet" (hence the term Saccopharynx) and into their stomach, where digestion takes over.

anglerfish Linophryne arborifera "No, it can't be," might be your first reaction on seeing the deep-sea anglerfish Linophryne arborifera, whose genus name means "toad that fishes with a net" (which shows you how baffled scientists were initially, too). In this species, both the pearl-onion bulb atop the head and the hanging garden of bioluminescent filaments below glow as a lure to unsuspecting prey, which meet a nasty end in its ferociously fanged jaws. As artist Richard Ellis points out, this coal-black fish would surely be considered "one of the most horrifying of sea monsters" were it not the size of a baby's fist.

It's hard to say which is more fantastic, the fish or its name. Grammatostomias flagellibarba, whose name means "lined stomiatid with a whip-barbel," is only six inches long, but its chin barbel can be six feet in length. As if such an absurd appendage were not enough to impress friends and enemies alike, this fanged freak of the deep, with its double row of luminously blue-violet organs running down its flanks, can light up like nature's stab at a spaceship.

Grammatostomias flagellibarba
vampire squid from hell For its size, the "vampire squid from hell," Vampyroteuthis infernalis, has the largest eyes of any animal. A six-inch specimen bears globular eyeballs the size of a large dog's. Such impressive orbs, coupled with its winglike fins and its ability to turn on and off at will a constellation of photophores—tiny lights all over its body—help this dark-bodied beast find prey at the lightless depths at which it lives, more than 3,000 feet down.

Biologists have gone to great lengths to describe the long-nosed chimaera, Harriotta raleighana, whose kind can reach five feet in length. Its stiletto-like nose reminded one of "the nose contour of a supersonic jet aircraft." Others have dubbed it "rattail," for obvious reasons. In South Africa, it is known as the "ghost shark," though it is only distantly related to sharks. A touch of the venomous spine on the first dorsal fin can kill a person, though such a fate is unlikely given the 8,000-foot depths at which this creature lives.

long-nosed chimaera or rattail


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