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Ghostly Deep-Sea Fish Shows Itself in Rare Sighting

A relation of the New Zealand fish: Close-up of a tripod fish at 6,430 feet (1,960 m) depth in the Northeast Providence Channel near Eleuthera Island. Image courtesy of Bahamas Deep-Sea Coral Expedition Science Party, NOAA-OE.

A bizarre deep-sea-dwelling creature a transparent spiderfish has been spotted near New Zealand.

A juvenile of the deep-water species , roughly 4 inches (10 centimeters) long, was captured on film near the Poor Knights Islands by photographer Crispin Middleton and was later identified by an expert on the fishes of New Zealand.

It is the first time the rare fish has been photographed alive and swimming in that area, the Northern Advocate, a New Zealand newspaper, reported. [Related: Images from the Census of Marine Life .]

"It has excellent camouflage," said Wade Doak, a marine specialist based in New Zealand, told the Northern Advocate. "It looks like jellyfish or salp and has total translucency, which would mean it is seldom preyed upon," Doak said.

Although these ghostly fish rarely venture within 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) of the surface once they mature, the juveniles often live much higher up before moving to the darkness below.

Adult spiderfish can grow up to 18 inches (45 cm) long. Also called tripod fish or feeler fish, they use elongated fins to "stand" on the seafloor and feed on the tiny crustaceans swimming by.

Andrew Stewart, who identified the creature in the photograph as the rare spiderfish, said four other species of the same genus have been recorded in deep waters around New Zealand. [See the picture from the Northern Advocate here.]

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