Viper fish are one of the fiercest predators living in the deep ocean. They live in the deep ocean where it is so dark they are invisible to other fish when they are still in the water. Viperfish use photophores along their sides to help conceal their body from fish swimming beneath it. They attract their prey with a “fishing lure” on top of their head. They have a low basal metabolic rate so they can go for days without eating.
Pacific Viperfish NOAA
Head and teeth
The most obvious difference between these fish and others that inhabit the deep are their large heads with fang-like teeth. The teeth are so large that the fish cannot close their mouth with their teeth inside. Instead the teeth curve over the outside of the fish’s head almost to their eyes when their mouths are closed. They have a hinged skull that can be rotated when they swallow very large prey they have impaled with their fang-like teeth.
These fish have a long dorsal spine that comes out of their head with a photophore on the tip. The photophore is a natural light. They turn the natural light on and off to attract their prey. It acts like a fishing lure while the viperfish hangs perfectly still in the water. Food is scarce in the deep and these fish can go for a period of time without attracting another fish to eat.
Where they hunt for food
The fish migrate vertically during a 24-hour period looking for food. They feed during the day at depths of about 1500 meters (5000 feet) where almost no light penetrates the ocean water. They use the photopores along each side of their body to give off a faint light to fool their predators beneath them looking for food. As day turns to night they move upward looking for food where it is more plentiful at shallower depths up to 600 meters (2000 feet) beneath the surface of the ocean. There are nine recognized species of viperfish.
Sloane’s viperfish are the most common species found in the deep ocean. They are usually a silver-blue color with pale fins. Some Sloane’s viperfish have been caught that are green, silver and black colored. Viper fish grow to be about 30 centimeters (12 inches) long when mature. Very little is known about how long these viperfish live. Scientists estimate they can live between 30 and 40 years. Viper fish caught in nets and brought to the surface of the ocean live only a few hours before they die.
Where viper fish live and
what they eat
Viper fish are known to eat shrimp, squid, hermit crabs, anchovies, mackerel and other little fish. They swim at high speeds toward their prey impaling them with their sharp teeth. Other animals that eat viperfish include dragonfish, dolphins and sharks. They live primarily in tropical to temperate waters. They have been found living around Australia in the Pacific Ocean and Maine in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Oceans on our planet cover approximately 70% of the Earth. The water that covers our planet is essential to life on our planet. From space the Earth looks like a blue ball partly covered with white wispy clouds.
The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia are one of the seven great wonders of the natural world. Find out more about this World Heritage Site.
The Mid Atlantic Ridge is a divergent plate boundary where continental plates are moving apart down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Viper Fish are one of the fiercest predators living in the deep ocean. Find out how they attract their prey with a “fishing lure” and impale their prey with fang-like teeth.
Oceanic Zones are specific areas of the ocean. Most ocean life lives in one specific zone. Marine biologists have discovered some animals, whales, can dive to great depths to hunt for food.
The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami lifted the seabed and moved it sideways along a 1,600 km (1000 mile) crack in the Earth’s surface. The Indian Plate slipped beneath the Burma Plate during the earthquake.
Rift Valleys are not caused by erosion but are created by tectonic activity. These valleys form when oceanic plates are moving in different directions forming a divergent boundary.
Marine Sponges are sessile animals that look like plants. Some sponges have been found living on the ocean floors that are over 8,800 meters (5.5 miles) deep.
Caribbean Spiny Lobsters are found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. They are also known as Florida spiny lobsters and are famous for their migration each year into deeper waters.
Rogue Waves for centuries were believed to be tall tales sailors told during shore leave. They said waves rose out of the sea as a vertical wall of water that crashed into a ship without warning.
Ghost Crabs live on beaches in tropical and sub-tropical regions. They are found along beaches from Rhode Island south to Brazil. They only need to wet their gills to live on land.
Black Smokers (hydrothermal vents) were discovered by scientists aboard the Alvin in 1977. An entire ecosystem lives around the chimneys with bacteria the base of the food chain.
Check out Myrna Martin's award winning textbooks, e-books, videos and rock sets. The Kids Fun Science Bookstore covers a wide range of earth science topics. Click here to browse.