weekend silliness: my transparent head

The barreleye fish can rotate its eyes upward and literally look through its own transparent head to see objects positioned above it! The rest of its body looks like your regular opaque fish, but the head dome is transparent. You can see its internal organs. A bit from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute press release:

Ever since Macropinna microstoma was first described in 1939, marine biologists have known that its tubular eyes are very good at collecting light. However, the eyes were believed to be fixed in place and seemed to provide only a “tunnel-vision” view of whatever was directly above the fish’s head. A new paper by Bruce Robison and Kim Reisenbichler shows that these unusual eyes can rotate within a transparent shield that covers the fish’s head.

Most of the time, the fish hangs motionless in the water, with its body in a horizontal position and its eyes looking upward. The green pigments in its eyes may filter out sunlight coming directly from the sea surface, helping the barreleye spot the bioluminescent glow of jellies or other animals directly overhead. When it spots prey, the fish rotates its eyes forward and swims upward, in feeding mode.

Lucky researchers, but the fish was less fortunate. It “survived for several hours in a ship-board aquarium.” One day we will find a way to study deep sea critters without killing them.

Bonus round: there is also the frogfish which has leg-like fins, an off-centered tail and bounces around on the sea floor chaotically. You can see this particular species at the California Academy of Sciences if you’re in San Francisco. Good luck getting it to bounce around for you though. A tip for the frugal: go during a Thursday Nightlife event, where you get the benefit of music (a bit loud and clubby), drinks and talks. Parts of the aquarium are in nighttime/rest mode and the events are 21+, but admission is $10 instead of $25. There are also some photos related to the issue of climate change being displayed. They are strictly what you would expect for this type of venue, but worth a look if you’re going anyway.

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~ by Jin on February 28, 2009.

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