Life gets pretty weird in the cold abyss of the deep sea. One deep ocean oddity presented itself to researchers at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) just the other day — the strange beast has now been referred to dozens of times as the “faceless fish”. While the nickname is pretty fitting, this mysterious fish does in fact have a real name, and it even has some elements of a face.
Typhlonus nasus, collected east of Jervis Bay, New South Wales, May 2017. Image: Dianne J. Bray / Museum Victoria
Multiple sources have confirmed to Gizmodo that this unfortunate soul is a kind of cusk eel rarely seen by humans, called Typhlonus nasus. (The fish’s identity was also confirmed in a blog post published yesterday by CSIRO researcher Diane Bray.) While Typhlonus nasus is found throughout the Indo-west-central Pacific — in the Arabian Sea, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Japan and Hawaii, hauling up a specimen is extremely rare. My guess is that living at depths of 4000 to 5000m has something to do with that.
Contrary to the naysayers, this “faceless fish” does have a semblance of a face, buried underneath its skin. “Although very little is known about this strange fish without a face, it does have eyes — which are apparently visible well beneath the skin in smaller specimens,” Bray wrote. “I doubt they’d be of much use though,” given that it swims at extreme depths where light is virtually non-existent.
To make things even more confusing, cusk eels are not even true eels, as their name would suggest.
Image: Dianne Bray and John Pogonoski via CSIRO
While the mystery of the faceless fish is cracked (for now), it seems it might have gained yet another nickname.
“I believe the technical term for a fish with no eyes is a ‘fsh’,” conservation biologist David Shiffman told Gizmodo. HEH.