Invisibility Cloak Deep-Sea Fish Spotted

By Douglas Helm | Published

There are plenty of deep-sea denizens in the dark depths of the ocean that are easily disguised from prying eyes, but some are even harder to see than others. That’s especially the case with the rare dreamer anglerfish, which a group of explorers in Monterey Bay, California, recently observed during a mission to collect phaeodarians. The sighting is especially rare because the fish has ultra-black skin that acts as an invisibility cloak of sorts, making it nearly impossible to see against the darkness of the ocean depths.

A Rare Sighting

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) researchers may not have been expecting to see this dreamer anglerfish (which you can see in the image above), but it was a truly lucky find. In the 36 years of exploration by the MBARI, the fish has only been spotted nine times, with the previous sighting recorded in 2016. Of course, this is by design, as the creature’s tone is meant to make it easier to lure prey in without being spotted.

An Invisibility Cloak Sure To Impress Even Harry Potter

The dreamer anglerfish is so dark-hued that it looks like a shadow when you actually spot it, and even the reflection from its own luminescent lure is absorbed by its pitch-black skin. When a prey animal spots the lure, they are drawn in, thinking it may be a source of food, only to be quickly snatched up by the jaws of the silently lurking predator. Of course, it can retract its lure when a more intimidating presence is detected, which is exactly what it did when the team’s remotely operated submersible approached it.

Difficult To Research

The deepest depths of the ocean are a relatively barren place, where animals like the dreamer anglerfish have to work very hard to find food sources and mates. These adaptations to the pitch-black, barren nature of the depths have allowed the fish to continue to propagate and survive in such extreme conditions. Of course, it also makes it incredibly hard to see them if you’re an ocean researcher.

MBARI’s Mission

While the dreamer anglerfish spotting was a happy coincidence, it wasn’t the purpose of the MBARI researchers’ mission. The team was actually going down to collect the aforementioned phaedoarians, which are tiny spiked organisms that dwell in the midwater region of the ocean. These rely on marine snow, which is organic material that sinks to the ocean depths and provides a much-needed source of food for deep dwellers. The researchers study these phaeodarians to get a better understanding of the connection between Earth’s climate and the ocean.

The Mysterious Anglerfish

A dreamer anglerfish encounter is certainly something that the researchers weren’t counting on, given the rarity and the fact that they weren’t expecting to see a ton of life in their research endeavor. The dreamer anglerfish was first collected in the late 19th century, and its hue and fearsome appearance have captured the imagination ever since.

And while there are plenty of other deep-sea creatures that develop similar adaptations to camouflage themselves with the darker background of the ocean depths, there aren’t any known that are quite as pitch black in color as the dreamer anglerfish, making it a truly unique creature in an unforgiving environment.