27 Best Deep-Sea Species #17: Tripod fish Bathypterois

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The only thing more absurd than a fish walking on stilts is a fish walking on stilts with a rubber chicken, I always say. The tripod fish Bathypterois is a deep-sea stilt-walking simultaneous hermaphrodite. Its truly absurd. The kinky lifestyle pays off, too, because they are a successful group widespread throughout the deep-sea to 5600m depth.

These would be awesome in an aquarium display. Like a Dali painting. But they would be tough to feed. Bathypterois aka spiderfish preys on small copepods and pelagic crustaceans. They are not visual predators. Their “enormously elongated” pectoral rays sense vibrations in the water column. Such big rays more than make-up for those beady little eyes, I suppose.

Both male and female gonads mature at the same time in the same animal. Mates are sparse, according to the BBC Blue Planet website, rarely encountered. But “if all else fails, one tripod fish can potentially reproduce on its own by fertilising its own eggs.” Hmm. I wonder if they have that on film. – PJE

Images from Planete-energies.com and Kochi University.

Peter Etnoyer (406 Posts)

PhD candidate at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and doctoral fellow Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.





6 comments on “27 Best Deep-Sea Species #17: Tripod fish Bathypterois
  1. Wow, I have never laid eyes upon such a creature. Incredibly strange and beautiful. I prefer the live image on the left :).

  2. Is there any video of them actually feeding out there? I’ve seen a few different video bits, but always either moving along (escaping the big SpongeBob ROV?) or stationary. Never feeding.

  3. I don’t think they walk on them – they prop themselves up off the ocean floor. Often seen facing into whatever week current is down there with those fantastic pectoral fins spread out forward like a trumpet. The thick fin ray has a nerve running diown it & they’re picking up whatever faint disturbences various little invertebrates & fishes make……It’s a long time between drinks down there :-)

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