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Viperfish

The viperfish is one of the fiercest predators of the deep sea. Its large mouth and sharp, fang-like teeth can easily recognize this fish. These fangs are so large in fact that they do not fit inside its mouth. Instead, they curve back very close to the fish's eyes. The viper is thought to use these sharp teeth to impale its victims by swimming at them at high speeds. The first vertebra, right behind the head, actually acts as a shock absorber. This fearsome looking creature has a long dorsal spine that is tipped with a photophore, a light-producing organ.

The viperfish is an iridescent dark silver-blue color in life with pale fins. The sides of the body are covered with hexagonal pigmented areas, each with one or more small photophores. The viperfish uses this light organ to attract its prey. By flashing it on and off, it can be used like a fishing lure to attract smaller fish. They have been known to hang motionless in the water, waving their lures over their heads to attract their meals. Vipers have a hinged skull, which can be rotated up for swallowing large prey. They also have large stomachs that allow them to stock up on food whenever it is plentiful. The viperfish also has photophores all along the sides of its body.

Like many deep sea creatures, the viperfish is known to migrate vertically throughout the day. During daytime hours they are found in deep water down to 5000 feet. At night they travel up onto shallower waters at depths of less than 2000 feet where food is more plentiful. The viperfish grows to between 12 and 24 inches in length and is found in most waters of the world. It is believed that the viperfish spawn externally. This means that the males and females release sperm and eggs into the water where fertilization occurs.

The Viperfish occurs in tropical and temperate marine waters worldwide. In Australia, specimens have been collected from southwestern Western Australia, around the north of the country and south to Tasmania. Viperfish are no threat to humans.