Deep Sea Dragonfish Emanates Red Light from Eyes

Citron, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Deep sea dragonfishes lurk in the darkest parts of the ocean depths — and are capable of emanating red beams of light from their eyes. 

These awesome looking creatures come from a family of fishes called Stomiidae that inhabit the ocean depths at an average of 2000 ft below the surface. They are ferocious predators with extremely large teeth compared to their body size and they hunt their prey with a bioluminescent barbell or lure.

Pacific blackdragon, a true classic
byu/aCultleader inTheDepthsBelow

There are several different species of dragonfish (one estimate is around 67 species.) They are quite difficult to tell apart but the one pictured above is from the Pacific depths off the coast of California and likely a member of Tactostoma macropus, the longfin dragonfish. Idiacanthus antrostomus is an Atlantic species that looks very similar, according to limited research.

GM. Woodward, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, these species do not survive long near the surface, primarily because their natural environment beneath the ocean’s Bathyal zone boasts extreme temperatures, strong pressure, a complete lack of light, and the absence of an ocean current.

One individual dragonfish was caught in a cod-end trawl and observed behind the glass of a special pressurized tank called a kreisal aquarium.

Its most amazing characteristic? The dragonfish produces a red light beam using a unique organ located near the rear of its eye and it is one of the few deep sea creatures that can perceive red light. Although red light does not travel far underwater, it allows them to sneak up on their prey — especially shrimp, which brightly luminesce beneath red light — without being spotted.