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Photos: The freakiest-looking fish

Red Lionfish

a close-up of a striking red lionfish

(Image credit: Abel Valdivia)

Look at that mug. With its striped coat and fanlike pectoral fins, the invasive lionfish is quite the looker. It's also invasive. Though native to the Indo-Pacific region, the lionfish has been eating its way through reefs of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, scientists are finding. With no effective predators, fishing by humans may be the only way to control the population, say scientists.  

The lionfish is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bizarro fish. From a green-eyed creature with a snout that senses its prey's heartbeats to a bat-fish that appears to be wearing red lipstick to a scorpionfish that uses its ugly mug to hide amongst beds of seaweed.

Bat fish

(Image credit: Photo: NOAA)

The batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) is surely odd-looking with its red lips and its hornlike rostrum that juts out between the eyes. Growing to about 10 inches (25 centimeters), this fish is endemic to waters around the Galapagos Islands, according to the Encyclopedia of Life. Its pectoral and pelvic fins form appendages that look like limbs. When it comes to swimming, this oddball wouldn’t win any contests. Though it is capable of an awkward swim stroke, the red-lipped batfish typically walks on the seafloor with its fins, according to the Ashland Vertebrate Biology blog.

Ghost shark

Ghost shark

(Image credit: Copyright 2007 MBARI)

This creature's looks earned it the name ghost shark, but it's actually a fish that falls into the chimaera, or ratfish, group.

This species of ratfish is known as the pointy-nosed blue chimaera. It was videotaped by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's remotely operated vehicle Tiburon near the summit of Davidson Seamount, off the coast of Central California at a depth of about 1 mile (1,640 meters).

Starburst of Color

A new species of scorpionfish, <em>Scorpaenodes barrybrowni</em>, discovered in the deep reefs of the Caribbean. This scorpionfish is distinguished from its relatives by the elongated rays on its fins and by its starbursts of color.

(Image credit: Barry Brown)

This species of scorpionfish, Scorpaenodes barrybrowni was discovered in the deep reefs of the Caribbean. Considered the deepest-living fish of its genus ever found, this scorpionfish is distinguished from its relatives by the elongated rays on its fins and by its starbursts of color. [Read full story on the scorpionfish discovery]


(Image credit: OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP); National Marine Fisheries Service, Woods Hole Lab )

The Scorpionfish's fanciful mug allows it to hide in northern seaweed beds. Though it looks "decorative," the reef fish, Scorpaena plumieri, is equipped with venomous spines on its pectoral fins. The image was captured in the Atlantic Ocean off Massachusetts.

Knifenose chimaera

longnose chimaera

(Image credit: Scott Tanner)

A fisherman discovered this weird fish in a pile of bycatch off the coast of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada on March 4, 2016. He snapped the photo, and later identified it as a knifenose chimaera (Harriotta raleighana), a deep-water fish that has a skeleton made of cartilage. (H. raleighana( is related to sharks, skates and stingrays, and usually swims near the ocean's floor, looking for prey with the heartbeat-sensing electroreceptors on its snout. [Read more about this odd-looking fish]

Winglike fins

longnose chimaera fish

(Image credit: Scott Tanner)

The knifenose chimaera propels itself forward by turning its winglike fins in a figure 8 motion. These fish are rarely seen by people because they live so deep in the ocean, usually from 0.2 miles to 1.6 miles (380 to 2,600 meters) under the water’s surface, But they're more and more frequently getting caught up in bycatch, experts report.

Green Speckles

The green-speckled <em>Scorpaenodes caribbaeus</em> is a relative of a stellate scorpionfish (<em>S. barrybrowni</em>) &mdash; the deepest-living fish of the <em>Scorpaenodes</em> genus ever found.

(Image credit: Brian Mayes)

The green-speckled Scorpaenodes caribbaeus is a relative of the stellate scorpionfish (S. barrybrowni). Though small at just a few inches long, this scorpionfish makes up for size with its impressively patterned skin. The freaky fish lives in the western Atlantic Ocean.

California sheephead

(Image credit: Photo: Channel Islands NMS)

You might find a California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) like this one roaming the rocky reefs and kelp forests that line the shore from the Channel Islands to Monterey. Amazingly, sheephead are all born females! It is only later in life that all of the fish will go through a change that transforms them into males.



(Image credit: NOAA)

Talk about freaky looking! This long-snouted lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox), a nocturnal predator that's rarely seen near shore, is known not only by its large fangs and tall dorsal fin, but also by its habit of eating others of its own species.

Because it's a relatively uncommon fish that inhabits the open ocean, little is known about its life cycle. In adolescence, lancetfish are hermaphrodites (having both male and female sex organs), though there's no evidence of adult hermaphrodites.

The cannibal fish can grow to be as long as 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length. Lancetfish generally feed at night, and in addition to dining on other lancetfish, they also eat crustaceans, squid and smaller species of fish.


image of a red lionfish, an invasive species

(Image credit: Walter Hackerott)

Lionfish, which generally grow to between 12 and 15 inches (30 to 38 centimeters) long, sport venomous spines on their bodies.