Manylight Viperfish (Chauliodus sloani)

Finding an interesting fish to blog about isn’t too difficult. All I have to do is plunge into the depths of the sea, and the deeper I go, the weirder and more bloggable the creatures become. Today’s fish is one of the stranger ones, and is known as the manylight viperfish, or Sloane’s viperfish.

Manylight viperfish live in deep waters (which is why they are so bizarre), in the bathypelagic region of the ocean. This ranges from 1000 to 2000 meters in depth, though viperfish have been found as deep as 2800 meters. They migrate daily, coming to the mesopelagic zone (200 to 1000 meters deep) at nighttime. Viperfish are found in all subtropical and tropical oceans, and have also been found in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Finding good pictures of deep sea creatures is a bit of a challenge. Image source

Sloane’s viperfish don’t get very big, only reaching lengths of 20 to 35 cm. They are long and thin, and have iridescent blue, green, black or silver scales. Viperfish have rows of photophores that produce light running along their sides and bellies, hence the name ‘manylight’.

So why are they called viperfish? Well you see, viperfish have massive teeth coming out of both their upper and lower jaws. In fact, these fish have the largest teeth relative to head size of any fish in the world. The teeth are hinged, so they can rotate into viperfish’s mouths, preventing prey from swimming away once they’re caught. Manylight viperfish also have a hinged connection between their skulls and backbones, which allows them to swallow big prey — up to 63% of their body length!

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A nice close up of a viperfish with its lovely teeth. Image source: Wikipedia

The problem with writing about deep sea creatures is that they are very hard to study in the wild. Which often means we don’t know all that much about them. Such is the case with the manylight viperfish, at least in regards to their mating habits. What we can guess is that these fish use their photophores to communicate with each other, but that’s about it. Otherwise these fish (or at least how they breed) are a mystery to us.

Still, what we do know about these creatures is pretty amazing. Hopefully with some more deep sea exploring we can discover even more crazy facts about these guys!

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