Creature Feature: Dragonfish

dragonfish 2


Like most deep sea fish, the dragonfish, Grammatostomias flagellibarba, possesses bioluminescent or light-emitting photophores. These photophores are used for tracking mates, camouflage, and luring prey.  The scaleless dragonfish uses its barbel, a fleshy threadlike growth from its chin, to lure it’s unsuspecting prey.   It waves the barbel around until a crustacean or other small organism is close enough to snatch and eat.

SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC

SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC

Dragonfish have very large teeth and strong jaws to feed on their prey.  While they are successful hunters, they are still prey to other deep sea creatures. Most organisms in the deep sea generate light so the dragonfish’s stomach is lined with black coloring so their predators can not see them when they are digesting.  This is a clever adaptation that keeps the dragonfish’s food from giving away its location to predators like the viperfish!

Even though they strike a frightening pose with their long sharp teeth, there is no need to fear this creepy-looking fish. They live as deep as 5000 feet below the surface – not to mention they can only grow as much as 6 inches long.  That’s only a little bit longer than an iPhone!  There is not too much known about a lot of deep sea animals but scientists work every day to study and discover new and unique species in the deep sea.




Edited by KC O’Shea

Photos: courtesy of  NOAA Digital Library


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