Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/May 1883/A Wonder from the Deep-Sea

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DURING the last voyage of the French deep-sea dredging-ship Travailleur, a fish was found, off the coast of Morocco, at the depth of about 7,500 feet, which may certainly be regarded as one of the most singular beings yet brought to light in any of these investigations. It is about eighteen inches long, and three quarters of an inch thick at the thickest place, and is deep black. Its body, the form of which is marked in front by an enormous mouth, somewhat resembles that of a macrouran, and tapers regularly from near the anterior quarter, where the external branchial orifice may be seen, till it terminates in a point at the caudal extremity.

A most singular appearance is given to the fish by the disposition of the jaws and the conformation of the mouth. While the head is very short, being less than an inch and a fifth in length, the jaws and the suspensorium are excessively long, the latter measuring more than three inches and three quarters. Hence the angle of the joint is put very far back, at a distance from the end of the snout about three and a half times the length of the cephalic portion. The suspensorium is probably composed of two pieces, one basilar, analogous to the temporal, the other external, and doubtless representing a tympano-jugal. The upper jaw is constituted of a long and slender stylet, the situation of which nearly corresponds with that of the intermaxillary, while the maxillary is wanting, unless we assume that the two bones are confounded. Slight, tooth-like granulations may be felt on both jaws, and two teeth, about two millimetres long, may be seen at the end of the mandible. The buccal orifice is, in consequence of this disposition, enormous, and is the introduction to a cavity of still more astonishing dimensions. The upper jaw is, in fact, united to the sides of the head and the fore part of the body by an extensible fold of the skin, which permits a considerable separation. Between the branches of the mandibles is extended an analogous but more dilatable membrane, containing, as is shown by histological examination, a great number of elastic fibers, in bundles, which may be compared to the pouch of the pelican. In consequence of the divergence of the jaws and the extensibility of the membranes, the mouth, with the pharynx, forms in the fresh animal a vast tunnel, of which the body of the fish seems to be a drawn-out continuation. It is presumed that food was accumulated, and partly digested, in this pouch.

The organs of locomotion are most rudimentary. The swimming-fins are reduced to two little appendages, situated near where the pectoral fins should be; the ventral fins are wanting. A dorsal fin, which is prolonged to nearly the whole length of the back, without quite reaching the tail, begins at about the length of the head back of the occiput; the anal fin begins a short distance back of the anus, and

PSM V23 D086 The deep sea fish eurypharynx pelecanoides.jpg
The Deep-sea Fish Eurypharynx Pelecanoides

ends at the same point as the other. The extremity of the body is wrapped in a little membranous fold, a kind of caudal fin. The slender and flexible rays of these singular fins are not articulated, nor, so far as can be judged from the preserved specimen of the animal in liquor, are they connected by a membrane. Without engaging in a technical description of the organs of respiration, which are so far unique among bony fishes, or of the organs contained within the abdominal cavity, it is important to take notice of the complete absence of the swimming-bladder. This fish offers in certain features resemblances to the Anacanthini, to the Scopelidæ, the Stomidæ, and to certain apodes, but has also characteristics which separate it distinctly from them. It must be regarded as the type of a new family, of which, unless it may be found to be related to the malacosteus, it is the only representative. I propose for it the name Eurypharynx pelecanoides.

  1. From a paper read before the French Academy of Sciences.