The stenopterygians are a group of around 2000 species of temperate to tropical deep sea fish, among which are the most abundant species of fish in the world! Surprisingly perhaps, as can be seen here, most of these fish are very small presumably because the deep seas they inhabit do not provide them with very much food. Teleosts are primarily dependent on sight but some of those that live in the lightless conditions of the ‘deep sea’ have evolved ways of producing their own light and some predatory deep sea fish use their ‘lights’ to attract prey. Our collections include several species of stenopterygians which were not originally placed on display as they were deemed to be rather small and unattractive but here they are.
This order comprises 250 species of flesh-eating deep sea fish with wide gaping toothed mouths found world wide. Most are black and silvery and most lack scales. They may reach 35 cm in length. Many have luminous organs and many have a luminous barbel, which acts to lure their prey.
Family Gonostomatidae. The 75 species of bristlemouths are extraordinarily abundant at great depths in many parts of the world’s oceans.
Family Stomatidae. The 175 species of scaled dragonfish are dark-coloured, fearsome-looking, small deep sea predators with a chin barbel and a large mouth full of fangs.
Family Sternoptychidae. The 50 species of hatchetfish are second in abundance only to the bristlemouths. Deep-chested but laterally compressed, their narrow dorsal profile conceals them above from predators and prey alike. They are very small, less than 10 cm in length, but have very large mouths, strange looking upwardly directed large tubular eyes and large photophores on their silvery sides which may serve to attract prey. They move up and down the water column preying on copepods and migrating zooplankton.