Paul H. Yancey, Whitman College
Updated May 2014

Return to my MAIN DEEP-SEA PAGE for details on animal collection and for TOPIC CONTENTS (or use pull-down menu, below right).
If you copy and use photos, please WRITE for PERMISSION first at

Some of these photos are mine, others are ones I took from the ROV Oceanic Explorer's camera monitor.
If you can help us identify species with a *, please contact me at the email above.

Me and Jeff Drazen with giant cuskeel, Oct. 2009 (Monterey Bay Canyon)

This page covers fish which live on the bottom (benthic), or swim just above it (benthopelagic). For pictures and information on deepsea pelagic fishes (which swim in the open water), go to the Mesopelagic/Midwater Page.

In 2014, we discovered 2 new species of HADAL (trench) fishes (liparids or snailfish) in the Mariana Trench, including the world's deepest known fish. For more, go to my HADAL Page.

TO FIND almost any FISH SPECIES in the world, go to FISHBASE. Most of the species names below in BLUE are linked to FISHBASE for more information. The Taiwan Fishbase site (mostly non-English) has many pictures of fishes from all depths, and can be searched by fish family names (in English).
MORE DETAILS on DEEP SEA FISH can be found at Jeff Drazen's U. Hawai'i site

Dec. 2012: preserved hadal snailfish
(@Te Papa, Wellington NZ)
Notoliparis kermadecensis

from 7000 m, Kermadec Trench
For 2014 updates on hadal fish, go to my HADAL Page

From 1) SUBTIDAL zone off Eureka, California: Continental shelf/Eel River site at about 510m-520m (with Lisa Levin, Scripps Inst. Oceanogr.);
2) Off Newport Oregon, on a) SUBTIDAL Continental shelf (Hydrate Ridge) at 600-900m (with Lisa Levin), b) BATHYAL continental slope (1800-2000m), and c) the ABYSSAL plain (2850m) (with Joe Siebenaller, LSU); and
3) From SUBTIDAL, BATHYAL ABYSSAL, California (500-3500m) (with Jeff Drazen, U. Hawai'i)
new eelpout
Pachycara EELPOUT: NEW SPECIES we got in 2009 (~3000m, Monterey CA; described by M. Eric
Anderson; Zootaxa 3559:39, 2012)

Unidentified fish seen from Alvin, 600m
*Pictures with "*" or "?" are species we haven't fully identified yet.
Thanks to RUBEN POHL (Austria) for tentative identifications of eelpouts and cuskeels, and for depth information on many species.

Some top Photos are from Alvin submersible or video frames from ROV Oceanic Explorer (off Newport, Oregon, and Eureka, Calif.)
Other Photos are from captured specimens (off Newport, Oregon, or Monterey, Calif.)

1. Chondrichthyes, Agnathans
Agnathans are primitive fish lacking jaws (Lampreys, hagfish). Chondrichthyans are a group of fish with cartilaginous skeletons that includes sharks, rays and skates, and chimaeras. For unknown reasons, these fish are extremely rare in the deep sea below 3,000m (10,000 ft), and none have been found below about 4,100m (in contrast, Osteichthyes [bony fish] have been found below 8,000m). We recently tested an hypothesis regarding this pattern.

Catshark* (ROV photo)
Brown Catshark Apristurus brunneus (33-950 m)

sleeper sleeperjaws
Pacific sleeper shark!
Somniosus pacificus
(0-2000 m)

skate..skate egg case
White Skate
Bathyraja spinosissima
(800-2938 m)
(eggcase photo by David Siebenaller)

Deepsea Skate
Bathyraja abyssicola
(362-2910 m)

Chimaera seen from Alvin(600m)
Chimaera or spotted ratfish (relative of sharks)
Hydrolagus colliei (0-913m)

Hagfish seen from Alvin

Hagfish Eptatretus
(probably deani, depth
107-2743m, mainly 250-1200m).

River Lamprey Lampetra ayresi;
caught at 500m).

2. Osteichthyes--bony fish
Cuskeel or Brotulid? *
Sciadonus pedicellaris?

Pudgy cuskeel
Spectrunculus grandis

Shortspine thornyhead
Sebastolobus alascanus (17-1600m)
Idiotfish or longspine thornyhead
Sebastolobus altivelis
blob sculpin
Blob sculpin or blobfish
Psychrolutes phrictus
(550-1400m; maybe to 2800m)
A related Australian species
appears in the 2012 movie MIB3

Dover Sole
Microstomus pacificus
(30-330 m)

Popeye rattail or grenadier

(550-1800m mainly)

Rattail or grenadier
Coryphaenoides spp;
one on the left has a large
parasite in its skin. See the MBARI site on rattails; scroll down there for parasite information.

rattail2..big rattail..rattail mouth
Giant grenadier
Albatrossia pectoralis
(500-1600m mainly)
(and Joe S. of LSU)

Sablefish (ROV photo)

Anoplopoma fimbria
(mainly 300-1400m; max 2740m)

Pacific grenadier
Coryphaenoides acrolepis
(900-1300m mainly; 3700m max)

Ghostly grenadier
Coryphaenoides leptolepis
(610-4000 m)
Abyssal rattail/grenadier
C. armatus
(worldwide 282-5180m)

Eelpouts seen from Alvin at 600 and 890m
Eelpouts: Lycenchelys sp.* (left);
Lycenchelys camchaticus or jordani?* (right)
Pachycara bulbiceps
(left) (2400-4800m)
Deepwater slipskin
? (right)*
Lycodapus endemoscotus?
Filamented rattailC.filifer (top) (1285-2904m); and
C. yaquinae (~3000-5800m)

Finescale mora
Antimora microlepis
(175-3048 m)

Two snailfish:
Careproctus melanurus
and C. gilberti
Slickhead Alepocephalus tenebrosus


pachycaranew eelpout
Pachycara gymninium (1829-3225 m)
Pachycara NEW SPECIES we got in 2009
(~3000m, Monterey CA; described by M. Eric
Anderson in Zootaxa 3559:39, 2012)

  • Brotulid fish: these are fairly common deep fishes, with big heads and tapering tails (but are not closely related to rattails with similar body forms; see below). Deeper species often have small or degenerate eyes. Not much is known about them. The deepest known fish in the oceans may be the brotulids Abyssobrotula, reported in trenches at over 8000 m and thus in the Hadal or Hadopelagic zone. The record appears to be an Abyssobrotula galatheae at 8372m in the Puerto Rico trench (thanks to Ruben Pohl for this information). However as this was caught by net, its actual depth of capture is not certain. See SNAILFISH below.
  • Thornyhead fish (Scorpaenids): these two closely-related species have similar habitats, with the longspine tending to be deeper. A 1978 study by Siebenaller and Somero (cover story of Science) reported that the longspine has more pressure-resistant proteins than the shortspine, a landmark discovery of a protein adaptation to pressure in an animal. The shallower of these two species, the shortspine, has been targeted heavily by fisheries recently.
  • Blob sculpin: a flabby, loose-skinned fish that probably sits on the continental slopes waiting for prey. First discovered in the 1960s off California. A human-like relative was recently found off Australia and re-created as an alien fish in the 2012 movie Men in Black 3
  • Flatfish (Pleuronectids) like soles and halibut start out looking like normal fish larvae, then metamorphose into flat shape tiwh one side (either right or left) becoming the bottom, and eyes migrating to the top side. Dover soles make lots of mucus for protection.
  • Rattail or Grenadier fish (Macrourids): termed benthopelagic or demersal fish because they swim just above the bottom, these relatives of cod are the most common fish of bathyal and abyssal habitats. The deepest grenadier observed lives down to 6500m.
    Rattails have huge heads, large eyes, and long tapered tails. They have swim bladders--which may be used to make sound as well as to float--and cruise slowly above the bottom searching for live animals and carcasses to eat. The Russians have been catching these fish for food for many years now, and their numbers are declining in their waters. For a recent article on such deep-sea fishing, see New Scientist, Nov. 8, 1997. See the MBARI site on rattails (Macrourid fish) for more information
    --Our lab studies how these fish adapt to high pressure. See the High Pressure page for details.
    --A swimming rattail can be seen in the movie "TITANIC" in the scenes filmed in the underwater wreck, which lies at about 4000m. Rattails at the Titanic are also described on the Discovery Channel's expedition there.
  • Sablefish: common carnivores; the target of some deepwater fisheries; may live to be 70 yrs old.
  • Snailfish (Liparids): relatives of the ones we caught were recently reported as the deepest living fish ever filmed alive (though not the deepest ever reportedly caught by net; see brotulids above).
  • Zoarcids or eelpouts: these eel-like fish are also poorly known in the deep; generally bottom-dwelling or benthopelagic. Some species are associated with hydrothermal vents, often seen swimming around giant tubeworms in videos of the vents.

B. ATLANTIC (Subtidal to Bathyal)
  • Goosefish or Anglerfish or Monkfish Lophius americanus: this bottom-dwelling subtidal fish is from the East Coast of the U.S., and lives down to about 1000m. It sits disguised on the bottom and uses a lure on its head to fool prey into approaching.
I don't have any other Atlantic specimens at this time.
For pictures of deep pelagic fish, click the MIDWATER link below.