After that creepily gorgeous ginormous jellyfish, researchers of MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) have caught on camera another incredible underwater creature. A barreleye fish is a fish with an entirely translucent head. And even more than that jellyfish, it scares me and amazes me at the same time.
During a dive with our education and outreach partner, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the MBARI team came across this barreleye fish (Macropinna microstoma). It’s a very rare treat, as MBARI explains: “the team remotely operated vehicles Ventana and Doc Ricketts have logged more than 5,600 successful dives and recorded more than 27,600 hours of video—yet we’ve only encountered this fish nine times!”
As you can probably imagine, this bizarre body is designed to see better in the ocean depths. The barreleye lives in the ocean’s “twilight zone,” at depths of 600 to 800 meters (2,000 to 2,600 feet). It can be found from the Bering Sea to Japan and Baja California.
“Its eyes look upwards to spot its favorite prey—usually small crustaceans trapped in the tentacles of siphonophores—from the shadows they cast in the faint shimmer of sunlight from above,” researchers explain. You may wonder how it eats with its eyes pointed upward and its mouth pointed forward. Well, MBARI researchers learned it can rotate its eyes beneath that dome of transparent tissue. Ew! But also, wow!
While watching the video, I thought that this fish was ginormous. However, I later learned it’s actually pretty small: it only reaches up to 15 cm (6 in). You can read more about this stunning creature on MBARI’s website, where you’ll also see a few photos of it.