February 26th, 2009

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Fish heads, fish heads, barrel-eyed transparent fish heads...

Since it was first described in 1939, the barreleye, or spookfish, was mainly known for its long tubular eyes that are adapted to using as much light as possible in its deep-sea environment, making it a deep-see fish.  The eyes were thought to be fixed in place, forcing the fish to move its body to see in any direction.

Monterey Bay researchers using deep-sea robots have now discovered that the fish's eyes do move inside its head after all, due to the top of the head being basically a snowglobe.  The fluid-filled transparent shield forming the fish's forehead allows the eyetubes to rotate inside, as well as allowing additional light to reach the eyes' retinas.

The green structures are the eyes' lenses pointed up, and the puckered structures that look like eyes above the mouth are actually its nostrils.

Previously these features were undocumented because the fish haven't survived capture long enough for them to be observed, as they are now in the robot's bright lights.

http://www.mbari.org/news/news_releases/2009/barreleye/barreleye.html

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