The long drive from San Antonio, Texas, to Gulfport, Mississippi, gave me plenty of opportunity to think about the various deep sea creatures I hoped to see on this trip. You could cut the excitement with a knife by the time I crossed the border from Louisiana to Mississippi. Loading gear onto the Point Sur brought all of the anticipation to reality, and then we were off. The seas have been calm and we made it to our first trawling station without incident. Then we started to fish as the trawling nets disappeared into the depths. A few hours later and the biologists on board, including me, were giddy – a net full of deep sea species was hauled on deck. It always seems like Christmas morning when a net is hauled up; you really never know what you are going to get…and these first few trawls have not disappointed. Cup after cup of great wildlife were handed to me. One of my jobs is to photographically document our encounters, which included a beautiful Johnson’s Abyssal Seadevil, Melanocetus johnsonii. These small predators have enormous teeth for snaring other small animals. Anglerfishes are also known for the glowing lure that they use to hunt. The technical term for the lure on an anglerfish is an “esca,” the fishing pole that connects it to the anglerfish’s forehead is an “illicium.” Anglerfishes are among my favorite fishes…hopefully more of these!
Another of my favorite groups of fishes, the dragonfishes, has made several appearances so far. This Scaleless Blackdragon, Echiostoma barbatum, is a deep-water predator. In contrast to anglerfishes, dragonfishes have a “fishing rod” hanging off of their chin with a lure attached. The entire structure is known as a barbel.