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The Inertia

There are some colossally crazy creatures down there in the dark and briny depths of the ocean. As close to aliens here on Earth as one could expect, really. Creatures that seem straight out of a science fiction tale. The researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) are interested in all that strangeness. And recently, they found some in the form of a  fish called a Macropinna microstoma, or barreleye fish.

The barreleye has a see-through head. It’s not a common sight, either — and not just because we aren’t looking. “MBARI’s remotely operated vehicles Ventana and Doc Ricketts have logged more than 5,600 successful dives and recorded more than 27,600 hours of video,” the researchers wrote, “yet we’ve only encountered this fish nine times!”

The fish lives in an area of the ocean called the twilight zone, between 2,000 and 2,600 feet deep. Called the twilight zone because it only receives very faint, filtered sunlight during the daytime, it’s a dark place. But fish like the barreleye manage just fine. Its eyes are not in the traditional eyeball placement. Instead, they’re the glowing green orbs you see in the video above. The small, indented circles where you might expect eyes to be are actually a little like a fish’s nose.


The barreleye’s eyes point up towards the surface, probably so that they can spot the shadows of the creatures they eat in the very faint light that makes it down to them. They feast mostly on small crustaceans trapped in the tentacles of siphonophores. It does seem strange, though, that their eyes point up and their mouths point forward.

“How does this fish eat when its eyes point upward and its mouth points forward?” the Aquarium wrote. “MBARI researchers learned the barreleye can rotate its eyes beneath that dome of transparent tissue.”

Although the barreleye most definitely lives on Earth, it’s proof that life down there can be decidedly unearthly.


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