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Researchers Discover “Ultra-Black” Fish in Ocean Depths

Credit: Karen Osborn, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

A living shadow swims through the deep dark.

Here’s a mildly unsettling factoid for you: researchers have discovered over 8.7 million different species of living organism, including plants and animals. Know how much of the Earth’s biodiversity that 8.7 million accounts for? About 14%. The vast majority of the Earth’s inhabitants are living in the darkest, deepest depths of the ocean, and we can’t even begin to imagine what they look like. As it turns out, that’s not because it’s hard to go down there (or at least not just that), but because apparently, some deep sea creatures are nearly invisible.


Zoologists working on behalf of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have discovered 16 new fishes of the “ultra-black” variety. An ultra-black fish is a species of deep sea organism with the ability to absorb light. These fish possess a body pigment so unbelievably dark, that 99.5 of light simply disappears in their presence. This body pigment grants these deep sea predators the perfect camouflage; in their native environment, they look almost like moving shadows.

Credit: Karen Osborn, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

One of the ultra-black fishes utilizes a bioluminescent lure on its head, much like the infamous anglerfish, to lure in its prey. Unlike the anglerfish, though, this new guy’s deep black body and transparent, light-absorbing teeth create a patch of darkness around it so dense that even its own lure can’t illuminate its entire body. Talk about the ultimate jump scare.

The really spooky part is that researchers are pretty sure there are even darker creatures lurking deeper. Biologist Prosanta Chakrabarty recently told the New York Times “I would not be surprised if we have not yet found the blackest fish in the sea.”

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