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Facts About Tripod Fish

Amita Ray
Mother Nature never fails to baffle us with the uniqueness of the beings that inhabit this Earth. The tripod fish shows its uniqueness as it uses the tips of its caudal and pelvic fins as stilts to perch on the ocean floor.
Bathypterois grallator is the scientific name of the tripod fish. The name is derived from the Greek words bathy, meaning deep as it dwells in deep oceans, and pterois, meaning feathery, due to its pectoral fins that appear feathery. Grallator literally translates to the one who walks on stilts.
Before the mid-1970s, scientist imagined the floor of the deep seas to be a lifeless barren terrain. With the depths so great that even sunlight couldn't reach the ocean floor, who could've imagined it any better?

But the cold dark belly of the ocean had a few secrets of its own. The kind of creatures that roam this part of Earth is just astounding. Even in this age of technology, very little is known about the unusual little (or large) residents of the deep oceans. One such fascinating marine animal is the tripod fish.

Tripod Fish Facts

✥ Tripod fish is the common name for the fish belonging to the family Ipnopidae, which includes the species Bathypterois grallator and the family Triacanthidae.
✥ The presence of this fish has been recorded in the Mediterranean waters, off Cape Blanc in Mauritania. It is also found near the Gulf of Guinea and the Western coast of the Atlantic ocean, throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Species belonging to the Triacanthidae family are found in the Indian and the Pacific ocean.
✥ The habitat of these fish is the benthic zone and are usually found at depths between 800 m - 4,000 m. They are usually found on the lower slopes, continental rise, and oceanic ridges.
✥ The average size of the fish is about 30 cm; the maximum recorded length of the fish was around 37 cm. Rays can grow up to 1 m in length, almost thrice the length of the body.
✥ The caudal fins and the pelvic fins of these fish seem to be elongated at the tips and are known as rays or element. The rays can be stiffened and are used as stilts by the fish to perch on the ocean floor. While swimming, the rays of these fish become flaccid.
✥ It is believed that fluids are pumped into the rays in order to make the rays rigid so that the fish could stand on the ocean floor.
✥ As these fish dwell at the bottom of the ocean where no sunlight can penetrate, these fish are virtually without eyes. Although rudiments of what were once eyes still remain.
✥ The lower jaw of the tripod fish is seen to possess scales that are arranged facing the anterior side. The lateral line of the fish is seen to be 56-70 scales long.
✥ The pectoral fin is tactile. It can sense the presence of food material in the surroundings and direct the food to the mouth.
✥ The diet of tripod fish include zooplanktons, tiny crustaceans, and other smaller fish. The way in which these fish capture their prey is very interesting. The fish position their body towards the current of the water and wait for a prey to drift by so that it can be directed into the mouth of the fish. The reason why they require rays, is to raise them above the ocean floor as water currents don't exist there.
✥ Tripod fish lead an almost sedentary and solitary lifestyle and are very rarely found in the company of other tripod fish.
✥ These organism are said to be hermaphrodites as they possess both male and female gametes. When there is unavailability of suitable mates, these individuals are capable of self-fertilizing to give rise to new individuals by expelling male and female gametes in their surroundings. The offspring are genetically identical to their parent.
✥ When a fish comes across a suitable mate, one individual gives off the male gamete, whereas the other individual will give off the female gamete. Fertilization takes place in the surrounding medium. Thus, it can be said that the fertilization in these individuals is external.
✥ The lifespan of these fish is not known. Although, they are believed to survive for a couple of years.
As the habitat of these fish is not easily accessible, the study on them seems to be really scarce. These fish do not seem to be threatened or endangered; however, the International Union For Conservation of Nature has not assessed these organisms as yet.