Some creatures’ adaptations help them camouflage so well that, along with predators, naturalists and researchers find it hard to spot them. This is the case with the rare highfin dragonfish (Bathophilus flemingi), which researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have managed to capture on camera.
“MBARI researchers have observed a few different dragonfishes in the depths of Monterey Bay, but this one is the rarest we’ve encountered,” the institute wrote on Twitter on May 3. “In more than three decades of deep-sea research and more than 27,600 hours of video, we’ve only seen this particular species four times!”
The highfin dragonish usually stay at depths of 740 to 4,500 feet below sea level, where they hunt fish or crustaceans by staying still and catching their prey as they swim by. They’re able to do this because of their unique coloring and biology.
Dragonish are tinted with some of the blackest blacks in the world, and the highfin dragonish is distinguished by the unique bronze tint on its scales. This coloring helps the highfin dragonfish absorb the little blue light that reaches its depths and camouflage it from predators and researchers alike.
“But when we shine our white lights on it, it’s just gorgeous,” Bruce Robison, MBARI senior scientist and discovery team leader, said. “They are just amazing animals, and part of what is appealing is that color pattern.”
The highfin dragonfish also uses bioluminescence, the biochemical emission of light, to both lure in its prey and avoid predators lurking below. A bioluminescent lure attached to its chin attracts its prey, while light organs on its rear camouflage its silhouette against the surface light from predators looking up at it.
This rare find was spotted at a lucky depth of just 980 feet by MBARI’s Western Flyer research vessel, and footage of the highfin dragonfish was posted on YouTube.