Nestled in the depths of the deep blue sea are a newly discovered species of ultra-black fish. Absorbing almost all light, marine biologists caught these fish deeper than 200 meters below sea level near the coast of California’s Monterey Bay. According to their findings, they absorb up to 99.956% of light proving, once again, how little we know about Earth’s internal world.
A team of researchers published their recent discovery of 16 new deep-sea species in Current Biology on Thursday. Undergoing extreme pressures and lack of sunlight, exploring how certain fish develop and evolve can tell us more about our oceans and how the changing climate may affect sea life. On another note, perhaps these findings continue to teach us the ever-changing diversity of life.
For example, to counter the darkness of a deep and dark sea some creatures develop bioluminescence to light their way. This results in a stunning blue glow that lights up the darkness underwater. At times, bioluminescence is also seen along the shores as the stars come out. However, not all creatures that dwell in the dark wish to be seen. In this case, extremely dark exteriors are developed to remain hidden.
Upon discovery, scientists weren’t fully aware of just how peculiar these deep-sea creatures were. In a statement, Karen Osborn, co-author of the study says, “I had tried to take pictures of deep-sea fish before and got nothing but these really horrible pictures, where you can’t see any detail. How is it that I can shine to strobe lights at them and all that light just disappears?”
After examining samples beneath the microscopic view, it became more clear as to how their skin functions. Containing melanosomes, containing melanin, these fish are equipped with an abundance of light-absorbing material. This is similar to what humans contain when absorbing sunlight to pigment skin or hair.
“But what isn’t absorbed side-scatters into the layer, and it’s absorbed by the neighboring pigments that are all packed right up close to it,” Osborn continues.
Basically, this group of species has evolved to be super-efficient in compacting and absorbing light to both keep them hidden from predators as well as prey.
It is also noted that these fish didn’t get this trait passed down to them by a common ancestor, but rather developed them on their own. Each fish has a different way of using this trait. For example, the threadfin dragonfish only possess this trait during adolescence for protection during vulnerable years.
This recent discovery hints at the vast and open sea beneath us. As scientists continue to explore the mysteries of the deep blue, it is highly probable more of these types of fish may begin to pop up.
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