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Dragonfishes and Relatives: Stomiiformes

Viperfish (chauliodus Sloani): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Viperfish can be as long as 14 inches (36 centimeters). The body is long and thin, and the head is large. There are five rows of large scales on each side of the body. The body is iridescent yellowish to blue-green on the sides, dark on the back, and enclosed in a jellylike sheath. This fish has more than fifteen hundred light-producing organs. The dorsal (DOOR-suhl) fin, or the fin along the midline of the back, is well forward on the body. The second ray, or supporting rod, of this fin is much longer than the others and is thought to serve as a fishing lure.

The teeth of the viperfish are so large they do not fit within the confines of the mouth. This fish sees the world through its teeth.

Geographic range: Viperfish live all over the world except the northern Indian Ocean.

Habitat: Viperfish live in the middle to deep depths of the open ocean, migrating closer to the surface at night.

The fearsome appearance of the viperfish has inspired myth, literature, and art. (Illustration by Joseph E. Trumpey. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Young viperfish eat small crustaceans (krus-TAY-shuns), or water-dwelling animals that have jointed legs and a hard shell but no backbone. Adults eat fishes, mainly lanternfishes, and occasionally shrimp.

Behavior and reproduction: Scientists do not know much about the behavior of viperfish except that spawning takes place year-round with a peak in late winter and early spring.

Viperfish and people: Viperfish have no commercial value. Their fearsome appearance has inspired myth, literature, and art.

Conservation status: Viperfish are not threatened or endangered. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceFish and Other Cold-Blooded VertebratesDragonfishes and Relatives: Stomiiformes - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Dragonfishes, Their Relatives, And People, Viperfish (chauliodus Sloani): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS