More down under beasties from Down Under

It’s weird fish time again, folks! Let’s kick off the new website by catching up with long-time Eternal Recurrence friend Mark McGrouther, Fish Collection Manager at the Australian Museum.

First on the list is the Humpback Blackdevil. This guy looks like Mr. Blobby’s evil brother (actually sister, the males of the species are tiny), a floating liver with teeth, or perhaps a video game villain I can’t quite place right now.

Next is the Black Snoek, definitely one of the least attractive creatures we’ve highlighted here.

This larval basslet is “only a piddly little fish,” but it’s interesting for its remarkably long dorsal spines. Their purpose is still under debate:

Larval Liopropoma have extremely long ornate second and third dorsal fin spines. These spines have balloon-like structures which are held above the fish. The Smithsonian’s ‘Expedition to Galapagos‘ website states that “We don’t know the precise function of these structures, but they look very much like a type of colonial jellyfish known as a siphonophore. Perhaps they look enough like them to deter certain potential predators.” Baldwin et al (1991) state that “The elongate filaments could play a role in energy storage by providing space for the assimilation of excess food; however, long, trailing filaments seem an unlikely place for energy storage because they probably are quite vulnerable to predation. In fact, pigmented swellings or other variations in the shape of the filaments could attract predators, distracting them from the body of the larva. The elongate filaments also might function in predator deception by increasing the apparent size of the lava.”

You may have read about the tongue biters on BoingBoing. These are parasitic crustaceans that clamp onto fishes’ tongues, eventually letting them whither away and permanently taking their place. The museum has some great photos and an article on these buggers right here. Don’t miss the oarfish, which I blogged about here back in February.

Finally, after all this time of posting about fish we at last get to see Mark himself in action. Here [wmv, mov] a strong wind and a dark night conspire to make sorting the catch a difficult endeavor. Oh yeah, that’s grace under pressure! Lots more movies on this page.

So concludes this month’s visit to the deep. More to come, as always, in this feature that ensures Nikki will always keep my blog demoted from “the political” to the “delightfully uncategorizable” (which is exactly where I want it to be).