Trophic Ecology of the Deep-Sea Fish Malacosteus niger (Pisces: Stomiidae): An Enigmatic Feeding Ecology to Facilitate a Unique Visual System?
Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Stomiidae, Prey selection, Plankton feeder, Bioluminescence, Photoreception, Visual pigments
The deep-sea fish Malacosteus niger belongs to a family of fishes, the dragonfishes (Order: Stomiiformes, Family: Stomiidae), that are among the top predators of the open ocean mesopelagic zone. Malacosteustypifies the morphological adaptation of this group for the taking of relatively large prey. These adaptations include huge fangs, an enormous gape, and the loss of gill rakers. Despite these adaptations, examination of specimens of this species from different ocean basins shows that zooplanktivory is a common feeding mode of the species, an extreme departure from its trophic lineage. Large calanoid copepods made up 69–83% of prey numbers and 9–47% of prey biomass in specimens from the North Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout the Pacific. As M. niger feeding observations have never been reported, the rationale for this enigmatic feeding ecology must be inferred from other aspects of its ecology. As presently known, M. niger is unique among all vertebrates in the possession of both a long-wave bioluminescence system and a bacteriochlorophyll-derived retinal photosensitizer that allows long-wave visual sensitivity. A two-part theory is presented to explain why M. niger radically diverges from its clade and preys on food it does not appear morphologically suited to eat: (1) the combination of long-wave bioluminescence and vision systems suggests that M. niger may search small volumes for food, and thus may sustain itself energetically by snacking on small parcels of food (copepods) in between rare encounters with large prey, and (2) M. niger may gain the raw material for its long-wave visual sensitivity, and thus its feeding mode, from the consumption of copepods.
Tracey Sutton. 2005. Trophic Ecology of the Deep-Sea Fish Malacosteus niger (Pisces: Stomiidae): An Enigmatic Feeding Ecology to Facilitate a Unique Visual System? .Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers , (11) : 2065 -2076. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facarticles/523.