A “cunning predator” has been lurking off California’s coast — and researchers said spotting it is a rare gift.
The ”stunning deep-sea creature” has only been spotted four times in more than three decades and 27,600 hours of deep-sea video footage, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute said.
Researchers said they spotted the deep-sea dragonfish during a recent expedition, and they were basking in the discovery.
“A remarkable sighting in the deep sea,” researchers said May 3 on Twitter. “Dragonfish lurk in the dark depths.”
Unlike other dragonfish, the rare highfin dragonfish has a bronze color. It is the rarest dragonfish researchers have found.
That specific species of dragonfish also has extra-long rays that help it feel when predators or prey are nearby, researchers said.
“The Pacific blackdragon (Idiacanthus antrostomus) and the longfin dragonfish (Tactostoma macropus) are the most commonly sighted species,” researchers said. “Encounters with others are rare treats.”
The dragonfish is usually about 20 inches long, and it swims about 14,800 feet below the ocean’s surface. They can be found anywhere in the world.
The fish are predatory, and some dangle lures from their chins to entice their prey to get close. Once the prey is within its reach, the fish can open their jaws wide and snap their sharp teeth shut onto the prey.
“They prefer to lie in wait and ambush unsuspecting fishes and crustaceans,” researchers said. “Most have dark skin — pigmented with some of the blackest blacks known in nature — to stay camouflaged from their prey.”