the fish with razor-sharp fangs too big for his mouth

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Pit Adders have sharp fangs so big they won’t fit in their mouths, but they do fit in front of their jaws to form an inescapable glassy cage. “When people think of deep-sea fish, viper is one of the first things that comes to mind,” says Yi-Kai Tea, a fish expert from the Australian Museum in Sydney. “They’re very charismatic, very iconic.”

Tea has found a Sloane’s Viper (Chauliodus sloani) on a research expedition that recently returned from remote Indian Ocean waters around the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This species is relatively common in the open waters of the twilight zone, between about 500 and 1,000 meters deep, so it was a surprise to find this one in the trawl Tea and his team were using to sample animal life closer. of the seabed.

The splendid teeth of the viper not only form a trap for prey, but they are very difficult to see. “Having really transparent big teeth allows you to conceal something that is otherwise very obvious and very obvious,” Tea explains.

A few years ago, a study of a closely related species of deep-sea fish, the shiny movable jaw (Aristostomias scintillans), discovered the secret of their transparent teeth. They are made of enamel and dentin, the same substances as human teeth. The complex nanostructure of their teeth scatters very little light and lets it pass directly through. This means that the fish’s teeth do not flicker in the bioluminescent lights produced by so many animals in the deep sea.

Along with other members of their Stomiidae family, including dragonfish, stareaters, and loosejaws, viperfish have another trick that helps them become even more formidable predators of the deep. Their jaws are not firmly fixed in place, but are loosely held together by ligaments and cartilage, allowing them to be opened very wide.

They also don’t have stiff vertebrae on the back of their skull. “Imagine having a boneless neck,” Tea explains. “If you bend your neck very far back and your jaw extends very far forward, you end up having these huge openings that are otherwise quite impossible.”

This family of fish is incredibly well adapted to life on the high seas. “They’ve just managed to diversify really well,” says Tea. A family member, the loose jaw of the brake light, can exceptionally produce and detect a red light. When sunlight seeps into the ocean, it is very quickly absorbed by the water, so most deep-sea species have lost the ability to see red. By shining its own red light in the dark, the loose jaw of the brake light has developed a private wavelength. “He uses this invisible torch to search for things that don’t see it coming,” Tea explains.

Related: Glassy Fangs and Gleaming Fins: Amazing Deep-Sea Animals Found Near the Cocos Islands

The ocean is one of the last truly wild places in the world. It’s teeming with fascinating species that sometimes seem to border on the absurd, from fish that peer through transparent heads to golden, iron-armored snails. We know more about deep space than the deep oceans, and science is only just beginning to scratch the surface of the rich variety of life in the deep.

As mining companies strive to industrialize the seabed and world leaders continue to bicker over how to protect the high seas, a new Guardian Seascape series will feature some of the weird, wonderful, majestic, ridiculous, hardcore creatures and mind-blowing most recently discovered. . They reveal all there is left to learn about Earth’s least-known environment – and all there is left to protect.

Catching a viperfish and seeing one in person reveals something that isn’t otherwise immediately obvious. “They look really creepy in photos, but in real life they don’t grow taller than a standard 15cm ruler,” Tea explains. Even so, these small fish are apex predators, he says. “They are the masters of their kingdom.”

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