How Deep-Sea Fish Are So Exceptionally Black

Date: April 18, 2018

Source: National Geographic 
Author: Elizabeth Anne Brown

In the darkness of the oceans’ depth, fish have evolved a strategy to become nearly invisible to prey.

In the vast, featureless darkness of the oceans, fish take camouflage to a new art form. How do you blend in with nothing?

Viperfish and creatures like it have evolved ever blacker—we’re talking blacker than black—so they can hide in plain sight.

“When you look at them, especially in the water, it’s just like a hole in the universe,” says Sönke Johnsen, a marine biologist at Duke University who studies the denizens of the deep.

Scientists are learning how these “super black fish,” a catch-all term for dark deep-sea creatures, make their bodies effectively disappear. (Read about a fish that lives a record-breaking five miles deep.)

In new research, Johnsen and colleague Karen Osborn discovered howcomplex nanostructures in the fishes’ skin trap incoming photons, absorbing almost all the light that touches them. In January, the team presented their research at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting.

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