Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California have discovered a fish with a transparent head that can see through its own forehead. Known as the barrelfish, this species has only been seen on rare occasions in the past.
This month, MBARI researchers were able to capture footage of a barreleye fish in its natural habitat. The film was taken thousands of feet below the surface of Monterey Bay, off the coast of California, and was recorded by a submersible. According to the institution, this is one of just nine instances in which it has been successful in locating the species.
The scientific name of the fish is Macropinna microstoma, and it develops at depths between 600 and 800 meters, in other words, where no light can reach it. It is around fifteen centimeters in length and feeds on zooplankton. But, perhaps most importantly, its head and a portion of its torso are entirely translucent! As a result, they provide an insight into some of its organs.
Even the most seasoned marine scientists are taken aback by this one-of-a-kind creature. ‘These deep-sea fish have the ability to see through their own foreheads,’ according to MBARI’s website. “Although there are other adaptations for seeing in near complete darkness, the Macropinna microstoma stands out as one of the most odd in a world crowded with them. Rather of having eyes, the fish has olfactory organs in the two holes where its eyes would typically be situated, and its eyeballs are behind its face, making two brilliant green orbs that peer upward from its head.”
This is not the first time that the MBARI camera has come into contact with the macropinna microstoma species. However, this is still a rather unusual occurrence: out of more than 5,000 dives, this peculiar fish has only been sighted 10 times, according to Geo.
The @MontereyAq team was aboard MBARI’s R/V Rachel Carson with our ROV Ventana to collect jellies and comb jellies for their upcoming #IntoTheDeep exhibition when they spotted this fascinating fish. The team stopped to marvel at Macropinna before it swam away. pic.twitter.com/xfv0HqlHrO— MBARI (@MBARI_News) December 9, 2021
Macropinna microstoma may be found in their native environment in the Bering Sea, Japan, and Baja California, among other places. They live in the “twilight zone” of the ocean, which is around 650 to 3,300 feet deep, and so no precise figure for the total number of Macropinna microstoma in the world can be determined. MBARI has been very fortunate with its recent discoveries. Earlier this month, the organization was able to catch video of a massive phantom jellyfish.
Another MBARI expert told Live Science that they are less likely to meet barrel-eye fish in the twilight zone than they are to encounter other types of fish. Lantern fish and prickly mouths are among the other types of fish that may be found in these waters.