Tour to Neocene
Pacific Ocean in Neocene is still the largest water body of
the planet though it is besetting for a long time from various directions by
drifting continents. It is not known, how much time this ocean would exist,
but it gradually begins to lose its connections and size. At the north northeast
Asia and North America had joined each other, having formed a mountainous isthmus
and having broken off forever the connection of Pacific and Arctic oceans. But
the connection with Atlantic, which existed for a significant part of Cenozoic,
had been restored again in Neocene – the Panama Passage is formed. Having literally
rumpling New Guinea and a part of Indonesian islands, Australia has moved to
northeast. But these changes appeared very insignificant in comparison with
boundless open spaces of Pacific Ocean. And Pacific Ocean still bears the palm
because of its depth.
Like any other water body of the planet, Pacific Ocean is populated with set of species of live creatures from the surface to the ocean floor. The top layer of the ocean illuminated by bright sunlight is especially rich in life. Here it is possible to meet the largest animal of the planet.
After the extinction of cetaceans and other marine mammals their place representatives of other groups of vertebrates have occupied. In Arctic Ocean and Northern Atlantic these are giant seal-like flightless birds. In Caribbean Sea large viviparous fishes filter plankton, trawling in schools rich congestions of tiny sea animals. In southern part of Pacific Ocean they are replaced by schools of huge sailerfishes travelling with the help of sea currents from equator up to cold polar waters and back. And in the central part of Pacific ocean, perhaps, the most awful of all sea animals – the huge sea sharkodile – rules. This monster combines in its body force of the whale, invulnerability of the crocodile, ruthlessness and speed of the shark. No one fish would challenge to this giant and the only animal it really is afraid of is its congener.
One of such giants cleaves the waves, propelling with powerful measured movements of wide tail. It is mature male, but its life had almost came to the end though its age is far from the limit – it is only about half century old. However it has already lost the life, battling for territory against younger and stronger contender. Now it has no hunting area, and life promptly leaves its body with blood stream: in giant’s side the wide laceration gapes, put by saw-like jagged teeth of the opponent.
The bloody trace involves some ocean inhabitants: in dark blue expanse sides of large fishes, keeping in school at the respectful distance from sharkodile, flash. These fishes, dorado croakers, realize that the monster is still alive and dangerous. Though they reach almost two-meter length, in comparison with fifteen-meter long crocodile they look like dwarves.
Hoarse breaths of the giant become lesser and lesser often: sharkodile has lost a lot of blood and has weakened. Movements of its tail are slower and slower, and beats of huge heart are weaker and weaker… And the school of highbrowed fishes keeps already fast beside. Being in full force, the reptile would be able to catch any of dorado croakers in few seconds. But the fishes involved with a smell of blood now swim quietly near the sharkodile body, staying for a while near the mutilated side. One of them swims absolutely near an eye of sharkodile, but the reptile does not notice it any more – large evil eye dimmed, and the monster had turned to mass of lifeless meat.
Dorado croakers become more courageous – one fish cautiously swims up to the wound and begins pinching meat of the former enemy. And after some minutes already the whole school of fishes fearlessly tears by sharp teeth the body of an enormous reptile. They hurry up to receive their share: from the mouth of dead sharkodile air bubbles burst. Water pressure squeezes out the rests of air from reptile’s lungs, and the body of the crocodile becomes heavier then water. It gradually leaves the top layers of the ocean and submerges to impenetrable depths for the pleasure to inhabitants of this gloomy world. But such “gifts” are like a banquet for inhabitants of depths: they are too rare. Usually dead bodies of sea animals quickly become food for inhabitants of the top layers of ocean. And in general the opportunity to die in natural way in the nature is a kind of privilege. Only giants like sharkodile receive it.
The world, where the body of giant crocodile falls, has gone through an accident at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. It is even more dependent from the amount of plankton in the ocean, rather than near-surface communities of organisms. The slightest decrease of productivity of ocean results in mass extinction among deep-water animals. And it had been taken place so at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene fatal for Earth fauna. Almost all deep-water animals of previous epoch have died out. But at the very same time their place had been occupied by “young recruits” from among descendants of shallow-water coastal fauna. Some kinds as if “slipped” down the continental slope, others turned to inhabitants of open ocean and developed the abyssal habitats later, and the third ones passed to life in thickness of water, having not finished their
“descent” on a continental slope. As a result of these metamorphoses ocean depth appeared populated as densely as earlier, after only few millions years after the restoration of conditions acceptable for life.
Heavily gnawed from outside, the carcass of giant sharkodile falls to gloomy abyss. During its last travel the body of marine reptile will be picked completely, and even bones will be pierced and picked by benthic animals in due course. For now on dead body of former horror of the seas the numerous pack of pelagic “hour hand” worms comes down. These large-headed creatures are completely blind, but they have felt an appetizing smell of prey with the help of sensitive palps on heads.
When worms have swam nearer to dead body of the giant, the fishes feasting on it have rushed away in all directions. “Hour hand” worms are carnivores, and they will not miss a chance to attack too sluggish fish.
Having remained the only owners of the carcass, worms scrape decomposed meat by mouth radulae. The soft muscles affected by decomposition, rather firm cartilages and sinews, the rests of skin – all of it may be successfully consumed by them. But worms can’t gorge on for all further life, therefore they leave carcass soon, and it sinks further to the joy of the other inhabitants of the ocean.
However large prey is only occasionally appearing kind of food. The significant part of a diet of “hour hand” worms is made of smaller and frequently meeting prey, of fish. In searches of food these animals swim many hundreds of meters in depths of the ocean, being guided in cobwebs of smell “paths” left by various live and dead animals.
Small school of “hour hand” worms is swimming in searches of prey. Sight does not help them in search of prey, but sense of smell replaces it completely. When worms swim slowly, their sensitive palps are put out forward: they catch smell of possible prey much better so.
Sense of smell is the most reliable sense in eternal gloom of ocean depths. Sunlight does not penetrate into the thickness of water deep enough, and for the majority of inhabitants of depths sight is simply useless. But every animal, alive or dead, leaves odorous traces. And it allows living to numerous predators and scavengers of the ocean.
Sooner or later worms feel a smell attractive to them. They stretch plumose palps entirely and move them, defining the direction of tempting smell. They should hasten – any carrion becomes food for all sorts of animals very soon, and it is necessary to snatch the share quickly.
The smell becomes strong enough, but all the same it is not as strong as it should be. It seems, food is somewhere near them... Worms begin to swim around, trying to find a source of smell. Some of them succeed to do it, but they are obviously not too pleased with it.
The smell is emitted from the slimy construction stretched to two meters in sides floating in thickness of water. It is rather strong and sticky – it will be difficult to get out for worms which have stuck to it. Wriggling convulsively, they try to escape, but adhere to slime only stronger.
Their movements have attracted the owner this underwater spider web – rather small spider prawn. Though some of trapped worms are almost twice longer than it is, prawn can finish with them easily. Even that circumstance of its complete blindness does not prevent it to attack one of worms. This prawn has powerful claws with which it strikes at worm, cutting it half-and-half. The worm has partly escaped: its head and about ten body segments are intact and now swim out. But the rest of this animal continues wriggling in slime convulsively. Spider prawn seizes remains of worm with its maxillipeds and begins devouring it. This crustacean with thin legs and wide shovel-like claws is an adult female.
On back of spider prawn female the small transparent creature keeps. It is not a parasite, but the male of the same kind. It lives completely on female’s expense, and is necessary for it only for egg fertilization. But it does not demand as much food as it is necessary to normal large males of shallow-water prawns. In conditions of limitation of food resources it is important.
While spider prawn female finishes with one of worms, some of prey’s congeners have chance to escape from sticky trap. Wriggling their bodies, two worms succeed to leave dangerous place and disappear in surrounding gloom of the ocean. Having released, they try to slip out of slime which has stuck round them, wriggling and even knotting their bodies.
And ones which can’t get away from trap will turn to the food of spider prawn. It does not stick in its own trap - on its legs special glands secret the substance interfering sticking. Dexterously moving its thin legs and shaking elongated antennae, this blind shrimp walks across its trap, gathering small fry got in it.
However water in which spider prawn lives is moving nevertheless - in depths the undercurrents flow and carry like the rivers on land hundreds of thousands tons of water in various directions. And not to be carried away in them in unknown direction the prawn from time to time should leave its trapping house and search for a new place for life, moving against the current.
Due to complex instincts this crustacean is able to define precisely enough, to what distance it had been carried by the current, and how long distance it needs to swim to compensate it. Prawn female comes to the edge of the dwelling, moves unsurely for some time, and then abandons the former house resolutely, beginning its short travelling. With powerful contractions of wide abdomen it moves in water, and at this time male keeps on its shell, keeping by claws against the bases of its antennae. If it will break off from the female, the death in stomach of one of local fishes would terminate its life most likely.
Any time later the instinct orders the spider prawn female to stop. It slows down the movement, then swims for some time in various directions, analyzing the smells, and then begins the making of a new house. From advanced glands on animal’s abdomen the string of slime is secreted. It inflates strongly in water, becoming sticky and viscous. The owner of the trap attaches to the basic string cross ones, and the design similar to nerves of tree leaf turns out soon. When they will expand in water strongly enough, any small fry which spider prawn eats begin to be pasted to them.
But the prawn itself may easily turn to food for larger animals. Therefore both female and male riding it are always on the lookout. Male’s sense of smell s much keener compared to female’s one, therefore it partly pays back the “expenses” for its “maintenance” when bears caretaking service and warns female of dangers.
The most important danger to shrimps has rather remarkable appearance: this is a true ghost in eternal night of ocean depths. Flapping huge fins similar to wings, this creature flies promptly through thickness of water. Its body is translucent; through skin the contractions of interiors and regular heart beats are visible. Sensitive eyes and nostrils do not miss the slightest sign of presence of crustaceans: whether it be the light of luminous liquid emitted by shrimps flashed at the distance or a characteristic smell of animals. The wide mouth stretched in devilish smile is equipped with the numerous blunt teeth crushing firm shells of crustaceans. This fish, the phantom ray, is one of inhabitants of thickness of water. All sorts of sea animals protected by shells make the basic part of its diet.
The phantom ray has felt from apart the characteristic smell of spider prawn and its trap: this prawn places on slimy strands of trap odorous substance for attraction of various sea animals. But it is quite obvious that such way of hunting has also the underside...
The ray has rushed to the prawn suddenly: powerful flap of fins swept slimy net as if it had never existed. The ray saw of nothing in pitch darkness, but sensitive cells of lateral line have prompted it that someone small quickly swims off from it with the help of powerful, sharp and rhythmical movements. The fish does not swim so – it may be only a prawn escaping at full speed. One more throw, weak crunch of shell on firm teeth, and flattened transparent fish continues the search of the next prey.
In this world of depths it is difficult to live due to the resources getting here in natural way, therefore some inhabitants of the abyss have mastered very rich, but inaccessible to the majority of local animals source of food. In Holocene epoch it was known that the enormous number of sea animals made vertical daily migrations, rising at night almost to the surface of ocean, and moving to the depth in the morning. At night migrants from depths eat plankton organisms, carrying away to the depth vast amounts of organic substances.
And one inhabitant of Pacific Ocean of Neocene epoch lives on them. It eats plankton though does not make risky travels to the surface of ocean. It is very numerous fish of depths – pygmy bristletooth. Gathering in shoals numbering millions of them, this small fish makes migrations between depths of one and a half kilometer and 500-700 meters, undertaking the rise then when at the surface of ocean there is a morning. Thus, this fish meets shoals of copepods and other plankton animals migrating downwards from night hunting. The special anatomy of mouth allows bristlemouth to filter effectively even tiny crustaceans. And the rich fringe of thin teeth works like baleen, not letting prey out from mouth. During the feeding these small fishes emit light signals to each other - their lateral photophores flicker with white light.
Within the day tiny fishes feed, and at night, when crustaceans swim up, they leave middle depths and swim downwards. Migrants from the top layers of water are waited by the local hunters never leaving depths. One of them stays motionlessly in thickness of water, moving its fins lazily. The grotesque body of this creature stands in water in vertical position, kept afloat by slow waves of pectoral fins similar to fly wings. Toothed mouth and goggled telescopic eyes are directed upwards – from where each night pygmy bristletooths gorged on plankton copepods swim down. This strange creature is hummingbird needletooth, a deep-water predator, the descendant of blennies. It prefers not to swim far, but to wait patiently. Its prey is so plentiful, that sooner or later it comes nearer to the predator itself to the distance of effective attack.
And today predator’s expectations are not vain. Constantly living at the depths and being unable to rise to the surface of water, this fish lacks an opportunity to observe a majestic view of the star sky. But now, it seems, the sky goes down into the ocean gloom. Sensitive telescopic eyes of hummingbird needletooth observe an amazing and most desired picture in its daily life: numerous luminous points, which are flashing and dying away, arise from impenetrable blackness of ocean water. They move, making the abstract patterns, and become more and more distinct. It is the shoal of pygmy bristletooths returning from day time hunting. Their stomachs are full of plankton copepods, and small fishes shine brightly, contacting their congeners. The shoal of these fishes totals hundreds of thousands of individuals, and it moves directly to the hummingbird needletooth.
Gradually in darkness contours of fishes, on which stomachs pairs of bright photophores flicker, become distinct. When they almost cover needletooth by their shoal, it begins hunting. The most important thing here is to have time to gorge on while the shoal of fishes passes by. And the predator attacks.
Jaws of needletooth with strong teeth can extend forward, therefore it can catch prey, not moving from its place. And teeth have quickly found their prey – large bristletooth appeared insufficiently quick. The paling of pointed teeth has pierced its head through, having instantly killed prey. When jaws returned to their place, they had literally pushed bristletooth’s head to the predator’s gullet. One small effort follows, and prey has taken its place in predator’s stomach. And jaws at this moment have already seized the second prey.
“The food conveyor” operates continuously: while the shoal of pygmy bristletooths moved to the bottom layers of water, half-dozen of these fishes had finished their lives in needletooth’s stomach. Full hummingbird needletooth begins to move pectoral fins more actively, supporting itself floating – its stomach is appreciably stretched. But as chance offers, this fish is capable to eat twice larger amount of food.
It seems that a case of receiving of an additional ration may appear soon – sensitive eyes of hummingbird needletooth notice not far from it a congestion of flickering lights. Possible, it is a small school of bristletooths or other smaller fishes. Needletooth is able to swim and for the sake of an opportunity of having one more meal it can break the rest. With wavy movements of dorsal and anal fins this fish takes horizontal position, and then heads on flickering lights. Pectoral fins flap like wings, and fish swims like a tiny dragon.
Hummingbird needletooth accurately comes nearer to the congestion of flickering lights. It seems, these fishes are strongly frightened of something, they do not swim away, but keep close to each other – all fires shine at short distance from each other. Needletooth tries to take advantage of it – it is easier to catch prey this way. And if there is an enemy here, this fish can defend itself with the help of pointed sharp teeth. At the worst it is possible simply to swim out from the enemy – not all deep-water animals can swim quickly, and needletooth is capable to accelerate great speed for a short time.
But at this time it will be not possible for the hummingbird needletooth to apply any of means of an attack and defense: from the light sparkle congestion two elastic long tentacles have slipped out like two snakes, and the fish appeared seized by them. Lights have simultaneously brightly flashed, having formed characteristic radial pattern: it was a trap. They simply flashed one by one randomly before it, making the illusion of moving fish school. At the given moment there was nobody here, except for deceived needletooth and huge jellyfish squid.
Ruthless tentacles drag prey to corneous jaws of squid. One poisonous bite is done, and needletooth droops lifelessly in tentacles of the monster. When last convulsions of fish have finished, the squid has swallowed its body entirely, has accurately retracted hunting tentacles and has stopped afloat in thickness of water again, having stretched the tentacles connected with thin membrane, like a huge jellyfish. It is a passive predator – it is bad swimmer and prefers to allure prey to the distance of extended hunting tentacles. Eyes of mollusk look upwards, but due to sensory cells on tentacles it has full representation about what is happening under its bell.
Not only squids are able to hunt using luminous bait. Such ability is present at various kinds of fishes and crustaceans, and also at set of other animals inhabiting depths. Besides light is necessary for sea inhabitants for communication and for scaring of enemies away. The plenty of luminous liquid thrown out aside a predator blinds its sensitive eyes to any time and gives its prey a chance of escape.
But usually light is used for setting signals to congeners. In oceanic gloom it is possible to notice lights of various colors and sizes. And skilled pathfinders read them like an open book.
Like meteors various fishes rush in blackness of ocean water; as if comets some jellyfishes flash; and stomachs of tiny fishes which move down into the gloom in numerous shoal look like a starry sky. Being frightened by predators, they come in movement, twisting spirals in darkness as if a tiny galaxy. Flashes of light, as sharp, as on the staff of an old military newsreel, mean that under water there is a real battle between predator and its prey.
Sometimes lights of various colors blink in gloom – pinkish, dazzling white and pale green. They blink with different frequency and intensity. These are inhabitants of the sea searching for a mate to themselves – there is a time of spawning at any species. It happens that flashes of fires stop suddenly: it means that “prince charming” appeared the representative of another species, and the marriage alliance is impossible. It happens that lights begin blinking almost in unison: two animals has found each other despite of gloom and great distances.
It has taken place so with one pair of lights – blue and pale yellow. At first blue fires flashed brightly and faded away fast in eternal night of depths but when pale yellow light has blinked for some times in reply, they were lighted with the double force. And pale yellow lights have come nearer to them to the respectful distance. It means the pair of deep-water predators – saber-toothed longbeards – had cautiously reunited. Before to come nearer to the mate, fishes cautiously inspect each other. On their chins there are very long wattles with luminous baits on tips, and fishes touch each other by them: from the side it seems like two fireflies fly in darkness. Having convinced, that mistake does not take place, fishes cautiously approach to each other. They are extreme cautious: this species has monstrous folding canines and lightning reaction. But it seems there is not a mistake: mature male and female have met each other. The female’s body is full of eggs, and it will be spawned soon.
Some days passed. Longbeard male and female eat of nothing: they prepare to spawning. Fishes constantly touch each other by rays of pectoral fins, supporting tactile contact. It is necessary for synchronization of ripening of eggs and soft roe. And once excitation of fishes accrues: male begins to pursue female and to push its side. Female swims aside, but does not avoid male. Its body makes convulsive movements, pulls, and, at last, literally blows up with a cloud of eggs. Male fertilizes eggs and continues the chase following the female. The female spawns portions of eggs for some more times and while it does it, male expresses the vivid interest to it. But when the female doesn’t succeed to squeeze even one more egg out from itself, male vanishes in darkness. It is hungry, and female is much more hungry: if it would be late a bit, it would be simply eaten. Eggs of saber-toothed longbeards emerge on the surface of ocean where they develop in plankton mass.
In darkness of depths the lonely shrimp searches for its congeners. On its abdomen the light blinks, setting signals to possible representatives of its species: “I’m here!” Usually shrimps live in congestions, but sometimes some individuals are lost in eternal darkness. Chances of a survival at the lonely shrimp are insignificant: in case of attacking on shrimp school the predator has an opportunity of a choice, and the lonely shrimp is doomed, as a rule. But at this time it seems fortune has smiled on the shrimp: in darkness it notices some bright lights looking like its own one. Fires make faltering “dotted” movements characteristic for shrimps. There are no doubts – its congeners are there. Guided by an instinct, the shrimp hastens to them: congeners mean safety.
However in this world not all can appear what it seems at first sight. And the shrimp had convinced of it personally... in last instant of its life. In lights the body covered with outgrowths has flashed, the huge mouth has swung open, engulfing the shrimp, and tens of teeth have pierced shrimp’s carapace.
The shrimp has fallen prey to fancifully looking fish – to sea gargoyle. Floating lazily in thickness of water, this hunter dexterously imitates movements of shrimps, alluring them to itself to the distance of an exact rush. But not only shrimps may be deceived by sea gargoyle.
Having stretched rays of abdominal fins sticking out on its throat, sea gargoyle begins to invite careless shrimps to the certain death again. Movements of fins allow strengthening the realness of this performance. It seems the unbidden visitor comes nearer to the fish: predator’s lateral line feels distinct signals – powerful and smooth waves. The creature making them is obviously stronger and larger than sea gargoyle is. But this fish is able to defend itself: its jaws are strong, and in fins poisonous spikes are still kept – it is an inheritance got from rockfishes, Its ancestors. Sea gargoyle fades lights on fins, and flashes lights on its body brightly, warning a possible predator. Along its sides and on edges of operculi lights form clearly visible and recognizable pattern.
With one eye sea gargoyle notices in darkness the infringer of its rest – the huge phantom ray. Its body illuminated by sea gargoyle lights, is slightly standing out against a background of impenetrable blackness of water. It seems ray understands its mistake: here it is even no smell of shrimps at all. Having made some circles around sea gargoyle bristling up its spikes, the phantom ray swims off.
Sea gargoyle protected not only itself: it is a female, and in its stomach young fishes ready to be born soon have already grown up. Newborn sea gargoyle is only vaguely similar to mum: it is transparent and lacks light organs. Having just been born, it emerges almost to the surface of water. This creature is the inhabitant of plankton, as well as many other inhabitants of depths at early stages of development.
In plankton it is possible to find not only young growth of sea gargoyle. Numerous pygmy bristletooth fry hunt plankton crustaceans here. They spend in plankton the first weeks of life, floating in water with the help of long threadlike outgrowths growing upwards and downwards along the middle lines of back and stomach. Numerous young bristletooths will become prey of gluttonous large-headed sea gargoyle, but the fertility of this species is so great, that is compensates and pays off these losses.
Near to young bristletooths another creature is hunting: it is long-bodied transparent fry having wide mouth and numerous small teeth. Its relationship is given out by one feature: on its chin the long plumose wattle equal to half of total length of young fish’s body sticks out. When the time of metamorphosis will come, the body of this fish will become shorter and deeper, and the wattle will lose lateral shoots and will increase in length sharply: this creature is saber-toothed longbeard fry. But already now its habits give out a predator in it. Small fry of this species attack the largest plankton crustaceans, and larger ones attack young fishes of other species, and even their own smaller congeners. But for now they become prey for young sea gargoyle. In return those fry which will manage to survive may make up leeway and finish with sea gargoyle when they become adults.
When young deep-water fishes grow up, they move to oceanic depth. Some species like pygmy bristletooth will keep ability to swim to the top layers of water, and other kinds will abandon the warm world above filled with sunlight for ever. But they will hardly regret about it. During millions of years each species adapted for the certain habitats, therefore in cold and gloom of depths they will feel better, rather than in the world of the top layers of the ocean, which may look more favorable for life. In all layers of water, from the surface to the ocean floor, an eternal struggle for life takes place. Probably, at the surface of water where numerous predators live, including giant sharkodile, flabby and soft-bodied deep-water inhabitants would be instantly eaten. But in depths, in conditions of terrible water pressure and in eternal gloom they are at home. And sometimes as dramatic events, as somewhere at richly populated shoaliness take place here at times.
The huge jellylike body of jellyfish squid is stretched in water. This mollusk stretches its tentacles like a huge four-meter wide umbrella, alluring its prey with photophores blinking on the bottom side of it. Its hunting abilities allow imitating both lonely fish and the whole school of small fishes with the help of alternately lit lights. The matter is only in the number of lights lit and the rhythm of their blinking.
But, as well as in many other cases, not only possible prey, but also the furious predator expecting to have a solid meal willingly reacts to the bait. And unluckily the jellyfish squid has involved with its fires not small prey, but large saber-toothed longbeard.
Squid guesses too late that fish coming nearer to it is absolutely not lazy hummingbird needletooth. It tries to escape from the predator hurriedly – the mollusc hastily turns off its hunting bell and begins waving its short fins convulsively. But its body has lost streamline contours characteristic for its fast-moving ancestors a long time ago, therefore the giant leaves from danger too slowly. And longbeard is much quicker than huge mollusk. Large-toothed fish bravely seizes the bases of squid’s tentacles and begins to pull them like a dog. In reply to the acute pain shot through its body, the squid simply detaches two tentacles with the help of contraction of special muscles. It tears the thin membrane connecting them, and the mollusk tries to vanish in darkness. It has got off light: the main thing is to keep head alive and intact, and tentacles will grow again easily.
Saber-toothed longbeard has received rather nourishing dinner – two long tentacles – without special efforts. Due to the extensible mouth the fish easily swallows them though it takes a lot of time to do it. Certainly, other fishes feel an attractive smell of meal: around the longbeard dealing with pieces of squid some fires sweep by, and one pair of especially impatient lights for rather long time turns around the predator. But they keep a respectful distance due to the smell of longbeard, therefore the fish has dinner quietly in loneliness.
Having literally drawn squid tentacles into the stomach, the fish may not care of food for any time. However squid is rather watery and not so nourishing prey: it has a lot of slime and too low amount of protein. Some days pass quickly, from swallowed tentacles not a trace is left and the fish is compelled to hunt again.
Saber-toothed longbeard soars motionlessly in thickness of water. It is hunting, but as against predators of surface water layers, it does not make any superfluous movement. The fish is able to wait for a long time, but in ocean depths, where prey is very rare, it is not meaningful simply to wait – for this time it is possible to die with famine simply. And longbeard is not going to do it: it actively uses its hunting tackle for prey catching. Long chin wattle, obeying to contractions of thin muscular fibers, begins pulling. For the fish itself it is important to keep immovability: at any careless movement the waves spreading from its body will give out its location to the prey. But the movements of fish’s wattle tip are quite pertinent: it is a perfect imitation of shrimp movements. From time to time on wattle tip bright light flashes: “shrimp” calls the congeners… and finds out itself for predators even more obviously. And they are not delayed.
Longbeard feels uniform waves which force accrues gradually – someone is swimming directly to it… According the strength of waves, the newcomer weighs a little – it is possible to cope with it. And the fish begins to allure a live creature coming nearer closer to its mouth. “Shrimp” begins swimming in circles, slowing right in front of the slightly opened mouth full of pointed awl-shaped teeth. And the source of waves comes closer and closer steadily – it seems, someone was interested with this bait.
Everything is done in a split second – in light of the lighting bubble on chin wattle longbeard sees its prey for few moments: it is pale and translucent phantom ray. At the same moment its bait faded off, wattle has moved downwards, and awful jaws have swung open. As if blades from sheath, from epithelium plicae in depth of mouth four acute fangs were straightened. They were stuck in cartilaginous skull of phantom ray and have pierced through it. One top fang has pierced ray’s brain. But the ray, like the majority of fishes, is remarkable in amazing survivability: while life left its body gradually, mighty fins began flapping like bird’s wings, and the translucent ghost has rushed off through depths of the ocean, carrying on its body the terrible rider seized its head. But it had last for some minutes only. Movements of fins gradually turned slower and slower, and then ray’s body has become soft and has hung lifelessly in thickness of water. But the saber-toothed longbeard has begun to move: it has killed the fair game, and now is preparing to swallow it. This problem seems to be not so easy, but this fish solves it perfectly. Though the phantom ray is wide and flat fish, longbeard is able to swallow it. Its jaws are attached to scull with flexible ligaments, and halves of jaws are connected movably. By movements of jaws halves the fish accurately turns body of the ray into a kind of tube, and then slowly “stretches” on it, advancing and sticking in prey its jaws in alternate way. Eventually from prey only long and whip-like tail stays from outside, and it is slowly pulling into the mouth. After the hunting fish accurately folds blade teeth – it extends the lower jaw forward, slowly folds teeth and covers them with plicae of soft skin. The top teeth are equally accurately folded along the upper jaw.
After the successful hunting the appearance of longbeard changes appreciably: its belly is strongly inflated, and the swallowed prey appears through its skin. Having caught so large prey, it may not worry about the dinner for some days while digesting it. But the decision of one problem is followed by another one: the full fish becomes languid and inactive.
Having stretched its fins, longbeard floats in thickness of water. It is one of the strongest predators of the abyss and there are only few contenders able to battle to it in single combat. However the superiority in number may shift the outcome of fight to another side.
The smell of blood of the killed ray keeps in water for a long time, and it had been felt by “hour hand” worms. Possible, these creatures would bypass the hungry longbeard, and some of them, maybe, would even diversify its ration involuntarily. But now the fish is full and sluggish, and worms are hungry, swim quickly and have numerical superiority. Having felt their approach, longbeard tries to escape from the gluttonous horde. Convulsively moving its fins and tail, it swims out with great force, but gets tired quickly. This predator can’t swim for a long time: longbeard catches its prey with exact killing rush. But worms are the true tramps of the ocean. Great endurance is their advantage.
The outcome of the drama in darkness comes quickly: worms attack the fish trying to swim out vainly. Tens of sharp oral plates of worms almost simultaneously stick into its body. Like bee swarm above honey, worms move around the dying fish, rushing on it from time to time and putting bites.
Longbeard dies quickly: it is not able to do anything against its numerous small enemies. Some minutes later its body and the undigested prey – the phantom ray killed only a short time previously – turn to meat scraps and disappear in gullets of numerous worms.
Having finished with their prey and having picked up the last rests of meat floating in water, “hour hand" worms quickly leave this place. A day or two days later the similar drama will be repeated: another place, another victim, but the same successful and killing scenario of the attack.
Nobody will hide from death in the ocean: neither huge sharkodile, nor tiny plankton copepod. But every death has also another side: when dying, every live creature supports the life of the set of other animals. Life and death are interconnected and form a single whole both here and in any other place of the planet.
hand” worm (Sagittocephalus pelagicus)
Order: Eunicida (Eunicida)
Family: Eunicids (Eunicidae)
Habitat: depths from 500 up to 1500 m, thickness of water.
This numerous invertebrate is a pelagic species of gregarious annelids left benthic habitats and passed to life in thickness of water at the depths. Body length of an adult individual reaches up to 20 cm. Large head has the triangular shape with the lateral outgrowths serving for balance – hence the name of this species. The body of this animal is long and laterally expanded – thus the swimming surface is increased. The back end of body is rounded, and parapodia with long setae on last three segments form a structure looking like a tail fin. The worm swims when waving its body in vertical plane; for slow maneuverable swimming wide oar-like parapodia with numerous corneous setae are used. During the fast movement they are nestled against the sides of its body.
Body covers are rather dense, but smooth and translucent: through them interiors of this animal are visible. General colouring of animal is yellowish-white.
Life in darkness has influenced the development of sense organs. Adult individuals lack eyes: in darkness they are useless. But at this animal the chemical sense is perfectly advanced: on head the system of chemoreceptor cells is advanced, and separate cells are present on body segments. The significant part of them is located on very advanced plumose palps. To protect them from damages, during the swimming the worm retracts palps into special sacs, extending them for the analysis of the odorous substances dissolved of water. This species is zoophagous and eats mainly carrion, finding it with the help of smell. Numerous pack of such worms may attack smaller, sluggish and wounded fishes.
To feed on rather firm prey in its pharynx this worm has a plate similar to mollusc radula. It has serrated cutting edge and serves for tearing of prey. The pharynx itself is muscled and can turn outside. The efficiency of such adaptation is very great, turning worms of this species to dangerous predators.
This species is hermaphrodite, reproductive products mature in back third of body which breaks away from the body of animal and emerges to the surface of the ocean. Breeding body halves of different individuals frequently cling to each other and emerge together. In the top layers of water worm halves burst and spawn in water up to 15 thousands of small eggs and simultaneously emitting sperm liquid. Due to the special chemical substances secreted by worms ready to breeding the development of sexual cells at other members of the pack is accelerated and synchronized, therefore all animals in pack begin breeding simultaneously. Eggs develop at the surface of water within 4-5 days. Larva lives in plankton and eats small animals; at the age of 1 month its metamorphosis begins. One-age young worms gather in packs and begin hunting for smaller animals.
squid (Gorgonotheutis planisomus)
Order: Squids (Teuthida)
Family: Ommastrephidae (Ommastrephidae)
Habitat: Pacific Ocean, depth of 1-2 kms.
Picture by Tim Morris, colorization by Alexander Smyslov
Initial picture by Tim Morris
In early Neocene when oceanic ecosystems were restored after
“planktonic catastrophe” squids have gone through epoch of prosperity. They
have developed pelagic habit of life and have began to pass the complete life
cycle far from the coast. Among them fast swimmers are usual, but there is a
significant amount of sluggish forms which have developed life in depths. They
have evolved original hunting adaptations and tactics.
Jellyfish squid is one of deep-water species, very large representative of cephalopods leading passive and slow way of life. The animal lives in thickness of ocean, avoiding continental slopes and underwater mountains. In its shape it differs in great degree from the actively swimming relatives and is more similar to jellyfish of the monstrous size. The body of this animal is very wide and short: its diameter (about half meter) is almost half more than its length. Fins are shifted together and work as a unit when the animal moves to another place of hunting. Usually jellyfish squid hangs motionlessly in thickness of water, waiting while the prey will find it itself. The body of this mollusc has neutral buoyancy because of plenty of fat in large liver. Body covers of this animal are white and translucent, and eyes have bright cyan color.
Tentacles of this squid are very long: each of them reaches two-meter length. They are interconnected by flexible and very extensible membrane forming an original bell giving to this animal similarity to a kind of jellyfish. Suckers on the bottom side of tentacles have disappeared almost completely: they have turned to short bubbles on pedicles filled with luminous liquid. Squid can switch and fade light inside them randomly. For prey attraction it creates the similarity of lights in school of small fishes, fading and lighting on its lights in the certain order. Because large eyes of squid are directed upwards and to the sides, it does not see animals coming nearer from below. But each lighting bubble is ended with the long sensitive wattle reacting to current of water and chemical substances; therefore the animal receives very adequate information on everything happening under its bell.
When prey is involved to rather close distance, the predator seizes it with hunting tentacles which are not connected by membrane and are capable to extend to 3 meter length. The tips of these tentacles are covered with hooks and supplied with powerful suckers. Using these hands, squid drags its prey to the mouth equipped with strong corneous beak. The bite of this animal is poisonous and may kill large fish in some seconds.
This squid is diclinous animal breeding only once in life. Male is much smaller relatively to female (diameter of its bell is only all about two meters) and is much more mobile. Its fins are better advanced, and to the coming of sexual maturity the degeneration of membranes begins. During the short courtship season every male tries to find and to fertilize as many females, as possible.
In clutch of this species it may be up to 5 thousands of large eggs stuck together to slimy banana-shaped capsules. Female bears its eggs, having pasted capsules on hunting tentacles. Thus the tentacles connected with a membrane serve it as original means of protection, hiding from the enemy eggs themselves and not letting to feel their smell. The young squids hatched from eggs spend first some days on female’s tentacles, and then leave her. After that female quickly perishes from exhaustion. Young squids hunt small fish actively at the depths of up to 300-500 m. In due course of development of the membrane and luminous bodies they migrate to deeper water layers. Life expectancy of this animal does not exceed 3 years.
prawn (Arachnocaris crassopleon)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Spider prawns (Arachnocaridae)
Habitat: thickness of water, depth up to 2 kilometers, avoiding the areas of fast current.
Representatives of decapods in different time spans developed pelagic habit of life and successfully competed to smaller deepwater fishes. Frequently they had original strategy of survival as a pledge of success.
Spider prawn lives in thickness of water, preferring absence of underwater currents. The choice of habitats is determined by an original way of getting of food – it is unique among crustaceans, but has analogues at other kinds of animals. The present prawn species gets food with the help of secretions of special glands: the trap in which small fish and crustaceans – the food of this prawn species – get is made of them. The similar strategy is not new in the nature: it had been used successfully by some mollusks of Holocene epoch. For example, some gastropods – plankton Gleba and sedentary Vermetus – secreted in water the slimy “net” to which plankton animals stuck, and then ate it with “catch”. The hunting techniques of spiders, and also their complex web traps are also well-known. Spider prawn combines habits of these animals adjusted for features of aquatic lifestyle. It makes complex irregular-shaped construction of slime secreted from large glands in the bases of ovaries and puts in some places odorous baits from near-mouth glands. Small animals swim to attractive smell and get into the trap. On legs of this prawn there are glands secreting the substance allowing this prawn to avoid sticking to its own trap, therefore it easily moves across its own possession.
Body of spider prawn is about 15 cm long, of which short cephalothorax makes only 5 cm. Abdomen of this prawn is very large, expanded and muscled: if necessary it swims perfectly. In addition a significant part of abdomen volume is occupied with very advanced glands secreting slime rich in proteins – it’s a basis of the future traps. Pleopods, the rear pair of abdominal legs, form wide “tail fin”. Other abdominal legs are covered with bristles and help it to swim to short distances and to bear eggs. Walking legs are very thin and long. Pincers making half of body length are very wide and flattened – they are used for prey killing, and at swimming they act like a rudder.
Spider prawn is completely blind – even its eye stalks have disappeared completely. But it has well advanced sense of smell and keen touch. Antennae at this prawn are very long, making approximately one and half of total body length. The body of adult prawn is almost completely translucent.
This description is applicable only to females of the present species, because spider prawns have clearly expressed sexual dimorphism. Male of spider prawn, as well as at its terrestrial analogue, is a tiny creature about 3 cm long not including antennae. It has proportions characteristic for the majority of shrimps and prawns. This blind creature finds the female ready to breeding by smell and settles on its body. When female is disturbed, male creeps to bottom side of its body and seizes against its legs to keep on its body when female rushes to swim. It is feeding together with its female, picking up pieces of its prey.
After pairing female lays some thousands of small eggs from which in some days plankton larvae hatch. For about one month larva spends in plankton, and after 5-th moult turns to a tiny copy of the adult рачка. The first food after metamorphosis includes the particles of organic substances floating in water.
The gender at these crustaceans is not genetically fixed and depends on external circumstances. If the young prawn succeeds to settle on the body of congener female, its growth is slowed down, and it turns to male. Single individuals continue growth and turn to females. At length of about 20 mm females begin building slimy traps and continue growth, consuming nutritious forage of an animal origin.
Sexual maturity comes at the age of about 2 years. Young females are capable to lay successfully developing parthenogenetic eggs. After the appearing of males they lay usual eggs developing after fertilization. The egg laying repeats up to 3 times a year.
ray (Abyssoraya phantomica)
Order: Eagle rays (Mylobatiformes)
Family: Whiptail stingrays (Dasyatidae)
Habitat: Pacific Ocean, depths up to 1500 m, at night swims up to depths up to 50 m.
It seems, ray is obviously out of place animal of water thickness. But in human epoch the species of these fishes leading the whole life in swimming far above the oceanic floor had been known. These were giant manta rays, eagle rays and rather numerous skates. Among pelagic species even the electric ray had been known.
Phantom ray is a typical species from ocean depths: it is a fish with translucent body and very soft and only slightly calcified skeleton. This species is a descendant of one species of stingrays (Dasyatis) which had passed to pelagic habit of life from continental slope. Body length of an adult individual is up to 1 meter including tail, width is also makes about 1 meter; body of fish has rhombic outlines. Through fins gristly elements of fish skeleton and through skin on stomach its interiors are perfectly visible. Skin on the upper side of body is covered with numerous corneous bristles. Pectoral fins of triangular shape are similar to wings; this ray swims for almost whole its life flapping them. To keep in thickness of water it is helped by fat liver shifted under the backbone. Eyes of this fish are large, directed forward and to the sides; their fields of view are overlapped in part. The mouth is located on the bottom side of body, but is shifted forward and is able to open widely due to mobile ligaments – it is an adaptation to hunting in thickness of water.
This species eats soft-bodied worms and shrimps, and also small fish, crushing them by corneous plates in the mouth. To search for prey sense of smell and sight help to it – this ray at night rises in higher layers of water where can easily see its prey in clear moonlit night. In depth it mainly looks for flashes of lights emitted by shrimps and worms.
This species is viviparous like a significant part of its relatives. Its fertility is insignificant: female gives rise once a year only to two juveniles up to 20 cm long able to eat small fishes and shrimps immediately. They become sexually mature at the age of 5 years. Life expectancy is about 50 years.
bristletooth (Trichodognathus exophthalmus)
Order: Perciforms (Perciformes), suborder Gobies (Gobioidei)
Family: Bristletooths (Trichodognathidae)
Habitat: Pacific Ocean; pelagic species making vertical migrations at depths from 600 up to 2000 meters.
Maybe, the name of this tiny fish typed by small font is only a little bit shorter than its own size: total length of this fish is only 4-5 cm. But its value in life of inhabitants of sea depths is really huge. Innumerable shoals of fishes of this species some hundreds meters long and 5-10 meters thick are so dense that on the average there are two or three fishes in every liter of their volume. They make daily travels from deepwater zone upwards, to the depth of 500-700 meters where the great congestions of tiny plankton crustaceans congregate in the daytime, rising in turn to the surface of water at night. Pygmy bristletooth eats these crustaceans.
This fish is the descendant of marine representatives of eleotrid family (Eleotridae) passed to life in thickness of water. Body of this fish is cylindrical with very large head (20-25% of total length of fish). Life in depths of ocean has resulted in significant changes in shape of this species in comparison with ancestors. Eyes of pygmy bristletooth are large, telescopic and very mobile: they may turn in any direction. The bases of eyes are shifted upwards, and the significant part of head is made of large mouth which corner reaches far back the vertical of back edge of an eye-socket. Mouth of this species is a true trap for smaller critters: it is equipped with a paling of thin hair-like teeth and can open widely and stretch strong. During the feeding fish grasps a portion of water with crustaceans, opening jaws widely, and then closes its mouth and gill covers. Thus water flows out between teeth, and crustaceans remain in mouth. Prey of this species is numerous and breeds intensively, and the efficiency of feeding of such fishes is very great, therefore a biomass of this species and its relatives is among the greatest in ocean depths. They represent a source of food to many predators of depths.
Spiny fin of this fish is supplied with three strong spikes giving protection against enemies. Other fins are short; tail is strong and has wide fin. Abdominal fins are shifted to the throat.
Body colouring of this fish is coal-black, in the bases of eyes and abdominal fins the luminous bodies are located, emitting soft white light serving for communication of these fishes.
Spawning at this kind stretches for all year round. Courtship ritual is reduced to demonstration of lights luminescence and to slight biting of female’s fins by male. Pygmy bristletooth breeds, spawning in water up to 5000 small eggs at once with intervals of 2 weeks, and has no parental care of posterity. Larva lives in plankton of the top layers of ocean; later it undergoes transformation into a tiny copy of an adult fish and moves to depth, forming one-age schools. Sexual maturity comes in 6 months, life expectancy is up to 3 years.
needletooth (Erumpognathus prolongophthalmus)
Order: Perciforms (Perciformes)
Family: Winged abyssal blennies (Pteroblennidae)
Habitat: Pacific Ocean, bathypelagic zone.
Picture by Tim Morris, colorization by Alexander Smyslov
Initial picture by Tim Morris
In depths of oceans of Neocene epoch it is possible to find
descendants of both fishes of open ocean and coastal kinds of fishes. Some of
them survived during the mass extinction in depths, and others developed a new
habit of life. Life in very specific conditions has made various deep-water
fishes very similar against each other and poorly resembling their relatives
of the light and warm world above.
Hummingbird needletooth is a descendant of coastal benthic blennies (Blennidae) living in thickness of water. In early Neocene these fishes developed the life on continental slopes, and some of their species passed to life in thickness of water as ancestors of hummingbird needletooth. Body length of this fish is only 0.5 meters; body is thin and long, with weak muscles. Fish is not able to swim quickly: it spends a significant part of life floating in thickness of water a head up. Such pose is very convenient for an attack on fishes and pelagic worms swimming in innumerable shoals. Fish keeps balance with the help of movement of pectoral fins looking like oars: their bases are muscled and mobile. During the swimming of fish fins make the movements similar to wing flaps of hummingbird, but in rate very slowed down: one “flap” in 5-6 seconds.
Appearance of hummingbird needletooth is very remarkable: eyes are huge, telescopic, directed forward (accordingly, at hunting fish they look upwards). Right under eyes of fish there are toothed jaws able to extend forward to the distance exceeding twice the length of head. Teeth of this fish are numerous, long and thin. They stick out even from the closed mouth like frightening paling. Above the eyes bunches of long skin outgrowths supplied with luminescent bodies on tips grow. Colouring of fish is ochre-red, and light emitted by “lamps” above eyes is greenish-white.
Abdominal fins of fish grow on throat, but they are reduced in great degree in comparison with ancestral forms. They have only 4 rays, which are very long: half of total length of fish. Equally long rays grow in spiny back fin of fish. Anal, tail and the second back fins are merged together, bordering back part of its body. Tail of fish makes about 40% of body length.
Hummingbird needletooth is an active predator eating fishes and invertebrates. With the help of luminous bodies it allures prey actively, and sight helps to distinguish a luminescence of small animals swimming above the predator. The fish is very gluttonous: for one feeding it can eat as much prey, as it weighs itself. It is possible due to an extensible stomach.
Hummingbird needletooth breds in very original way. At this species male is equal to female in length, and may be even larger. It cares of posterity, that seldom happens at deepwater fishes, and bears eggs on stomach skin. In clutch it may be up to 50-80 large eggs; spawning repeats up to 3 times a year. Female lays eggs after original “dance” in vertical position when partners exchange with touches of fin rays and light flashes. On male’s skin every egg is surrounded with the blood vessels bearing an additional feeding to embryos. A similar way of parental care was characteristic for catfish Aspredo and frog Pipa in Holocened, and in Neocene the similar adaptation had been developed by one species of cichlid fishes. Due to such feeding juveniles hatch being larger and active, able to eat smaller animals at once. After fry hatching the skin on male’s stomach exfoliates and it eats it. Sometimes male bears eggs of 2-3 females at once. In this case development of the first sets of eggs is slowed down, and all juveniles hatch simultaneously.
Sexual maturity at young fishes comes at the age of 4-5 years. Life expectancy reaches 35-40 years.
gargoyle (Teratosebastes batophilus)
Order: Scorpionfishes (Scorpaeniformes)
Family: Abyssebastids (Abyssebastidae)
Habitat: Pacific Ocean, abyssal zone.
Picture by Tim Morris, colorization by Alexander Smyslov
Initial picture by Tim Morris
In Holocene epoch in Pacific and Atlantic oceans many kinds
of rockfishes (Sebastes) were found. In epoch of mass extinction at the boundary
of Holocene and Neocene some of these species have survived, because communities
of sea-bottom of polar latitudes appeared less affected by ecological cataclysms
compared to communities of coral reeves and open ocean. Some species of rockfishes
have developed life in thickness of water at the depths after Holocene groups
of deep-water fishes have died out.
Sea gargoyle is a descendant of rockfishes remarkable in very bizarre appearance. This fish has strong muscled body about 30 cm long; it has ochre red coloring characteristic for some deep-water fishes. On its skin there are small epithelial outgrowths – they increase its surface. In them bundles of blood vessels stretch, and the blood flowing through outgrowths, is additionally enriched with oxygen. Eyes are very large and telescopic, directed forward and upwards. The mouth with powerful teeth is able to stretch out very wide, allowing this fish swallowing prey of its own body length.
In spiny dorsal fin the membrane reaches only the middle of spikes which length is equal to depth of fish body, and at males even exceeds it. In fin rays channels of poison-secreting glands pass and it allows this fish to protect itself against large predators. Fins are transparent, very thin and delicate; pectoral fins are very wide: due to them fish can float in thickness of water waiting for prey. Abdominal fins are shifted on the throat and very much extended; on tips of front rays there are the luminous bodies helping in prey alluring. Their light is white. For an identification of congeners this species has small bodies of luminescence located along lateral line and on the edges of opercles. At males their light is pale pink, and dim white at females.
Like ancestral species of rockfish, sea gargoyle is viviparous, but its fertility is very low: female gives rise only to 20-30 large juveniles. But as against rockfishes of Holocene fry of this species kind can at once lead independent life of an active predator. Intra-uterine development of juveniles lasts for very long time, over one year. In typical case female gives rise to posterity once in two years. Sexual maturity comes at the age of 11-12 years, and life expectancy reaches 80 years.
longbeard (Macrobarbichthys dolichobarbus)
Order: Cods (Gadiformes)
Family: Deepwater bearded fishes (Bathybarbichthyidae)
Habitat: Pacific Ocean, thickness of water at the depths from 1000 up to 2000 meters.
Picture by Tim Morris, colorization by Alexander Smyslov
Initial picture by Tim Morris
In Holocene order of cod fishes (Gadiformes) comprised numerous
bottom-dwelling and pelagic species. After the “plankton catastrophe” a plenty
of forms of these fishes had died out, and the freed ecological niches had been
occupied by more progressive percoid fishes. But cod fishes have repeated the
destiny of many ancient groups of live organisms, having “receded” to the depths
of ocean, being forced to do it by newly evolved settlers. Here again, in impenetrable
thickness of ocean waters, where percoid fish is rather exception, than a rule,
fishes of order Gadiformes became the top predators. Among them some families
presented exclusively by deep-water forms have evolved, and they inhabit thickness
of water and the ocean floor.
One of the most gluttonous predators of depths is saber-toothed longbeard. In due course of evolution it had developed interesting hunting adaptation – long chin wattle, bait with luminous body. It is equipped with special muscles allowing imitation of movement of certain shrimp. The length of this wattle five-six times exceeds the total length of the fish; the length of fish itself (female) is about 60 cm, and male is smaller, being only up to 40 cm long. On male’s wattle a plenty of chemoreceptors is located, considerably sharpening its sense of smell – it is an adaptation for search for female.
Body of a fish has rather well developed muscles and is deep – this fish prefers to not chase for prey, but to make one exact rush. Fins are short; second back and anal fins are shifted back. The first back fin is much reduced: from it only three long single rays connected at the basis by rudiment of membrane remained. On tips of these rays small luminous bodies are located. Colouring is black, photophores behind eyes shine only during the breeding – at males they have bright blue color, at females are yellowish. Eyes are large and able to move in eye-sockets independently from each other; it allows fish having the overall circular field of view.
To prevent spending excessive efforts for keeping body afloat in thickness of water, the liver of this fish has increased, and in it the easy fat giving to body of this fish positive buoyancy is accumulated. Also for floating in water the long rays of pectoral fins topped with semicircular skin “flags” serve. Length of these rays is up to 20 cm. In rest the fish stretches them, forming a “fan”, and keeps in thickness of water without efforts.
Longbeard has huge head (up to third of the general body length), wide mouth and extensible stomach stretched along the entire bottom side of body; the back edge of stomach reaches the end of anal fin. In front part of both jaws there are long saber-like canines. The bases of these canines are equipped with joints which allow fish putting their tips inward the mouth (the similar mechanism is known at Holocene characid fish Hydrolicus) when the fish is not busy with prey catching. Thanks to the hunting adaptations the fish can swallow prey of its own weight.
Saber-toothed longbeard lives in thickness of water, not moving down to the ocean floor and not coming close to underwater mountains.
This fish breeds annually and spawns great amount of eggs with a fat drop, which emerge to the surface of water and develop in plankton. Spawning is accompanied by original ritual of “acquaintance”, when male and female exchange flashes of lights. Fertility is up to 100 thousands small eggs with positive buoyancy. Development of eggs takes place in the top layers of water. The young fishes look strictly dissimilar to adults – they have very extended bodies and rather short chin wattles with numerous lateral outgrowths. They spend for some weeks in plankton and later undergo metamorphosis and migrate to depths. Sexual maturity comes at the age of 5 years, life expectancy is up to 70 years.