By Amber Friend
March 24, 2015, 9:01 a.m.
Underwater predators use many tricky methods to lure potential prey close enough to attack and eat them. Two of the most common predatory adaptations for aquatic animals are physical alterations to their body to either disguise their appearance (camouflage) and/or the ability to make parts of their body glow in the dark (bioluminescence). Both of these tricks have multiple purposes. Camouflage helps potential prey hide from predators just as much as it helps predators blend into the background, waiting for prey to swim or float by. Bioluminescence can be used to lure prey to within attacking distance as well as communicate with other members of their species or as a visual threat to encroaching predators. But as we will see with the deep-sea squid, there are still many myteries about how predators use their unusual body shapes to feed on prey.
The Viper Fish
The Viper Fish is the one of the most unusual looking, popular and well known deep sea fish. One of the fiercest predators, the Viper Fish is best known for its massive mouth and extremely large, sharp teeth that are so big they can’t even fit inside its mouth to close! Their teeth curve up almost reaching their eyes. The Viper Fish lures its prey with its long dorsal spine that is tipped with a photophore, a light producing organ. They use their photophore by flashing it to lure their prey close enough to eat. Viper Fish have been observed floating in the water motionless, waving their lure over their head like a fishing pole, patiently waiting for their dinner to arrive.
The Tasselled Wobbegong
The Tasselled Wobbegong is an extremely unusual looking shark. With a distinctive body shape that is flat and broad with fringe branching skin flaps all along the mouth that reassemble a beard. The Tasselled Wobbegong stays low and camouflaged on the sea ground awaiting its next victim. The Tasselled Wobbegong has a slightly forked tip tail with a dark spot resembling an eye that lures its prey by imitating a fish swimming. By flicking its tail it tricks fish into its attack range. The Tasselled Wobbegong is extremely flexible, making it easy to turn around in a fraction of a second and devour any fish that tries to take a closer look at its tail. The Tasselled Wobbegong has been known to swallow other sharks!
The Flashlight Fish (video below)
The Flashlight fish is recognized by having a black body with a blue hue to its dorsal and caudal fins. It has what appears to be a glowing smile due to the bioluminescent bacteria that inhabit the light organs found just below each eye that resemble a flashlight. The bioluminescent can glow white, yellow or blue. The Flashlight Fish can turn the light on and off for mating, communicating and confusing predators. The glowing light also attracts their prey (zooplankton and smaller fish) which, when they come close enough, become dinner.
Grimalditeuthis Bonplandi- Deep Sea Squid (video below)
The Grimalditeuthis Bonplandi is unlike any other known squid, its tentacles do not have any suckers, hooks, or photophores. The Grimalditeuthis Bonplandi is a slow swimmer with a weak, gelatinous body, its tentacles are long, thin and fragile. Although we do not know much about the Grimalditeuthis Bonplandi, researchers believe the deep sea squid uses its tentacle tips as they flap and flutter as though swimming on their own to lure prey. It is believed the motion of these tentacle tips may induce small shrimp and other animals to approach within reach of the squid’s arms. Researchers have yet to see a Grimalditeuthis Bonplandi catch its prey. Due to this, they still do not know how exactly G. bonplandi feeds on any animals that it attracts using its “swimming” tentacle tips, but their detailed observations provide yet another example of the improbable survival strategies of the deep sea.