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The eels and their relatives (Elopomorpha) have larval stages known as leptocephali (singular is leptocephalus). They can be leaf shaped (bottom of figure, top most whole body image) or they can be more elongate and eel like (bottom of figure, middle whole body image). The fishes that are related to true eels include the halosaurs and the ladyfishes (bottom of figure, bottom whole body image). Head shapes can be elongate and serpent-like or rounded (top images). We have been intensively surveying the leptocephali of the Gulf of Mexico during our cruises. I have about 50 species photographed so far.
A full body shot of the Orangeback Flying Squid (Sthenoteuthis pteropus). This species can jump out of the water and glide, just like flying fishes.
A deep water marine ostracod, (Gigantocypris sp.). Ostracods are related to crabs, shrimp, lobsters, etc. Both individuals are brooding eggs. The specialized eyes detect bioluminescence in the copepods that they hunt and eat.
Brought up some more Bobtail Squid (Heteroteuthis dagamensis) in a trawl. This is as big as they grow.
A Bobtail Squid (Heteroteuthis dagamensis)
Moonfish (Selene sp.)
Another immature shrimp from this morning's trawl...perhaps an Atlantic Coral Banded Shrimp?
So folks ask me all the time about the size of the deep water wildlife we see. Most are really small. One exception can be found with several species of dragonfish (this is Echiostoma barbatum). Pictured here is Katie Bowen with the dragonfish.
The Orangeback Flying Squid (Sthenoteuthis pteropus). This species can jump out of the water and glide, just like flying fishes.
A "Swallower" (Pseudoscopelus sp.) - they have greatly expandable stomach tissue and can eat fish twice their size. Also called a "Snaketooth."
The Sargassum Triggerfish (Xanthichthys ringens)
A larval flatfish (Bothus sp.)
I Love me some squid (Abralia redfieldi)
Female anglerfish, larvae (Linophrynidae). Still has her jelly coat.
Leptocephalus (eel larvae)..and a cool species at that - the False Moray(Kaupichthys hyoproroides).
Happiness is shooting anglerfishes day in and day out. This is an odd one (Oneirodes carlsbergi). A close up of the esca (lure) is in the upper corner. The lure glows and attracts prey items. Only females grow to this size and have lures.
Another (Centrophryne spinulosa). Close op of the esca to the upper left....
Crazy weather this morning....this right next to the ship.
The life and death of a waterspout.
Although the weather was crazy it didn't' stop us from pulling up some really cool animals like this larval shrimp.
And this Dragonfish (Photostomias guernei).
And this Joubin's squid (Joubiniteuthis portieri)
A fish I have wanted to see for years (Inops murrayi). This deep water species is usually found between 1,460m and 3,500m. This is a juvenile we caught in the water column. Instead of functional eyes, what remains of photoreceptive tissue lies beneath bone in this species. The "eyes" have no lenses but can detect light.
We also captured a beautiful shrimp today. She is "in berry" or brooding eggs beneath her tail. The inset to the top left depicts the eggs beneath her tail. I am holding her to show size.
Catch of yesterday morning...a lobster larvae.
Another encounter in the afternoon trawl. A Dragonfish (Idiacanthus fasciola). This Dragonfish is sexually dimorphic. Males don't get the barbel and bioluminescent bulb hanging off of their chins. They have short lives and last just long enough to breed. This is a female. Note the bioluminescent photophores on her sides. Those spots glow in the dark and most likely aid in recognition of same species individuals and even recognition between the sexes. The bulb at the end of her barbel glows and attracts her prey items.
A deep water fish (Scopelarchus analis) with upward facing eyes that are adapted to see faint light or to key in on bioluminescence.
Yesterday morning we deployed our drone - an "autonomous underwater vehicle or AUV." The unit will move to various ocean depths across the next two weeks and collect water parameters. When we are ready for it, we will signal for it to stop and go to the surface. It will then start "pinging" using a GPS unit and we will locate and retrieve it.