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Macropinna microstoma and the Paradox of Its Tubular Eyes


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The opisthoproctid fish Macropinna microstoma occupies lower mesopelagic depths in Monterey Bay and elsewhere in the subarctic and temperate North Pacific. Like several other species in the family, Macropinna has upward-directed tubular eyes and a tiny, terminal mouth. This arrangement is such that in their upright position, the visual field of these highly specialized eyes does not include the mouth, which makes it difficult to understand how feeding takes place. In situ observations and laboratory studies reveal that the eyes of Macropinna can change position from dorsally-directed to rostrally-directed, which resolves the apparent paradox. The eyes are contained within a transparent shield that covers the top of the head and may provide protection for the eyes from the tentacles of cnidarians, one of the apparent sources of the food of Macropinna.
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Macropinna microstoma and the Paradox of Its Tubular Eyes
Author(s) :Bruce H. Robison and Kim R. Reisenbichler
Source: Copeia, 2008(4):780-784. 2008.
Published By: The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
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Macropinna microstoma and the Paradox of Its
Tubular Eyes
Bruce H. Robison
and Kim R. Reisenbichler
The opisthoproctid fish Macropinna microstoma occupies lower mesopelagic depths in Monterey Bay and
elsewhere in the subarctic and temperate North Pacific. Like several other species in the family, Macropinna has
upward-directed tubular eyes and a tiny, terminal mouth. This arrangement is such that in their upright
position, the visual field of these highly specialized eyes does not include the mouth, which makes it difficult to
understand how feeding takes place. In situ observations and laboratory studies reveal that the eyes of
Macropinna can change position from dorsally-directed to rostrally-directed, which resolves the apparent
paradox. The eyes are contained within a transparent shield that covers the top of the head and may provide
protection for the eyes from the tentacles of cnidarians, one of the apparent sources of the food of Macropinna.
THE upward-looking, tubular eyes of some mesope-
lagic fishes confer distinct optical advantages within
the dim light regime they inhabit. A tubular eye
typically has a large-aperture lens for enhanced light
gathering, coupled through a cylindrical tube to a densely
structured main retina at the base. The tubular shape
maximizes light intake and accommodates the increased
focal length of a large lens, without the greater structural
costs of a large spherical eye. A pair of adjacent tubular eyes
improves sensitivity, increases contrast perception, and
creates broad binocular overlap of the visual fields to
provide accurate depth perception (Munk, 1966; Lythgoe,
1979; Johnson and Bertelsen, 1991; Herring, 2002; Warrant
and Locket, 2004). There are also some drawbacks to this
high level of specialization. The field of view is significantly
reduced when compared with spherical eyes, and while
accessory retinal tissues may line the tubes, images in this
region are not focused.
Several fish species with tubular eyes have additional
structural adaptations that help to compensate for their
restricted visual fields. Some scopelarchids have a pad of
fibrous light-guides that direct light from the side and
below, to the accessory retinal tissue inside the tube (Locket,
1977). Opisthoproctids have retinal diverticula that may
provide peripheral sensitivity to bioluminescence, but do
not produce images (Munk, 1966; Frederiksen, 1973).
Tubular eyes occur in 11 fish families and in some nocturnal
terrestrial animals as well (Marshall, 1971; Lythgoe, 1979).
In many such fishes the eyes are directed upward, but other
species have their tubular eyes directed rostrally (e.g.,
Stylephorus chordatus,Gigantura indica,Winteria telescopa).
Parallel, upward directed, tubular eyes allow a fish to see
its prey silhouetted against the lighted waters above (at least
during the day) and to accurately judge its distance. In
general, the position of tubular eyes has been assumed to be
fixed (Locket, 1977; Collin et al., 1997). Fishes with rostrally
directed tubular eyes are believed to orient their bodies
vertically, which situates them appropriately to locate and
strike upward at their prey. In the case of Stylephorus, the fish
hangs vertically, uses its eyes to align its head with the prey,
and then quickly expands its buccal cavity, creating a large
suction to pull the prey in (Locket, 1977; Pietsch, 1978).
Gigantura also hangs vertically, sculling its caudal fin slowly,
with its pectorals fanned out to stabilize the head (BHR,
unpubl. in situ obs.).
While it is readily apparent that a fish with forward-
looking tubular eyes can keep its prey in view while it
strikes, it is not obvious how prey are tracked when the eyes
are directed upward and the mouth is outside the field of
view. In Argyropelecus and Hierops the mouth is large and is
angled strongly upward, which precludes the problem. But
Macropinna and Opisthoproctus have tiny, terminal mouths
and eyes that are aimed off in another direction. How one
such paradoxically configured fish can see to ingest its prey
has been resolved by in situ observations. Macropinna
microstoma is a solitary, opisthoproctid species that occurs
at lower mesopelagic depths beneath temperate and subarc-
tic waters of the North Pacific from the Bering Sea to Japan
and Baja California, Mexico (Chapman, 1939; Bradbury and
Cohen, 1958; Pearcy et al., 1979; Willis and Pearcy, 1982).
Five specimens of Macropinna microstoma were encountered
in or near Monterey Bay, California. Three individuals were
observed in situ with remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and
two specimens were collected by midwater trawl nets. Direct
observations were made with high-resolution color video
cameras mounted on MBARI’s ROVs Ventana (Robison,
1993) and Tiburon (Robison, 2000). The first two fish were
observed at 36u429N, 122u029Wovertheaxisofthe
Monterey Submarine Canyon where the bottom depth is
approximately 1600 m. The third was at 35u389N, 122u449W
over the Davidson Seamount. Water depth at this latter site
was about 1800 m.
The first of the individuals examined in situ (36 mm SL)
was encountered during the descent phase of a dive, at a
depth of 616 m and was observed for 12 min. This fish was
subsequently collected but did not survive. The second
(estimated from the video recording to be 110 mm SL) was
spotted during the ascent portion of another dive at 770 m
and was observed for 7 min. This fish evaded capture. The
third fish (estimated to be 112 mm SL) was found at 682 m
and was observed for 4 min.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, 7700 Sandholdt Road, Moss Landing, California 95039; E-mail: (BHR); and
(KRR) Send reprint requests to BHR.
Submitted: 4 April 2007. Accepted: 25 February 2008. Associate Editor: J. F. Webb.
F2008 by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists DOI: 10.1643/CG-07-082
Copeia 2008, No. 4, 780–784
One of the trawl-caught specimens (116 mm SL) was
collected by an RMT-8 net that fished discretely at 600 m
depth, over the axis of the canyon at the 1600 m site. The
second trawl specimen (52 mm SL) was collected by a small
Tucker net that fished obliquely to 1000 m at 36u259N,
123u199W, offshore from Monterey Bay where the water
column depth is 3600 m. The latter fish reached the surface
alive and in excellent condition. This specimen remained
active in a shipboard aquarium of chilled seawater for
several hours.
The most striking aspect of these fishes when first viewed in
situ is the transparent, cowl-like shield that covers the top of
the head, and the prominent tubular eyes within (Fig. 1).
The shield is a tough, flexible integument that attaches to
dorsal and medial scales behind the head, and to the broad,
transparent subocular bones that protect the eyes laterally.
This fragile structure is typically lost or collapsed during
capture by nets, and it has not been previously described or
figured. Beneath the shield is a fluid-filled chamber that
surrounds and protects the eyes. Scales are present just
behind the eyes at the nape of the back, within this
chamber. Separating the eyes is a thin, bony septum that
expands posteriorly to enclose the brain. Rostral to each eye,
but caudal to the mouth, is a large rounded pocket
containing an olfactory rosette. In living specimens, the
eye lenses are a vivid green color.
Undisturbed fishes were oriented horizontally, in two
cases with the head slightly down and in the third, with the
head slightly up (,10uof inclination for all). In all cases the
fish remained motionless as the vehicle approached. All of
the fins were spread wide, with the pectorals held out
horizontally and the pelvics angled a little downward (about
30ufrom horizontal). The broad spread of the very large
pelvic fins of Macropinna appeared to give them a great deal
of stability. When the fish moved slowly away from the
vehicle, all of the fins remained spread and propulsion came
from the caudal and pectorals. The only time the pelvic fins
were employed for motion was when the second specimen
bumped into the dome of the camera and turned sharply
away from it. When we attempted to collect this animal and
it contacted the inside of the sampler, it folded the pectoral
and pelvic fins along the body and was last seen accelerating
upward, before the sampler could be closed.
As we maneuvered the vehicle around the first individual,
we observed that its eyes rotated in the sagittal plane, from
Fig. 1. Video frame-grab of Macropinna microstoma at a depth of 744 m, showing the intact, transparent shield that covers the top of the head. The
green spheres are the eye lenses, each sitting atop a silvery tube. Visible on the right eye, just below the lens on the forward part of the tube, is the
external expression of a retinal diverticulum. The pigmented patches above and behind the mouth are olfactory capsules. High-definition video frame
grabs of Macropinna microstoma in situ are posted on the web at:
Robison and Reisenbichler—Tubular eyes of Macropinna microstoma 781
dorsal to rostral and back. That is, the fish was able to move
its tubular eyes to look forward as well as upward. In the
laboratory, with a living, net-caught specimen, the same
action was repeated (Fig. 2). When we positioned this fish
horizontally in an aquarium, its eyes were directed upward
toward the top of the tank. When we rotated the fish into a
head-up vertical position, its eyes continued to look upward,
although they were directed forward relative to its body. Eye
rotation, or tilt, did not occur every time the fish was
moved, but in 12 trials the eyes moved eight times. The size
of the arc of rotation depended on the degree to which the
fish was moved, and the maximum arc we observed was
about 75 degrees.
We examined the visceral anatomy of three specimens
and found elongate intestines and multiple cecae, which are
associated with diets of mixed zooplankton, including both
gelatinous and crustacean prey (Robison, 1984). As Chap-
man (1942) noted, the gullet is broad, without a narrowed
esophagus. The smallest restriction on prey size before the
stomach is the mouth. Two of the stomachs we opened
contained cnidarian remains. Opisthoproctid fishes, with
tiny, terminal mouths like that of Macropinna, have been
reported to browse on siphonophores, and siphonophore
tentacles and nematocysts have been found in the stomachs
of several species (Cohen, 1964; Haedrich and Craddock,
1968; Marshall, 1971, 1979).
Chapman (1942) described and provided a figure (Fig. 3) of
the eye musculature of Macropinna, and he noted that the
evolutionary change in eye position from lateral to vertical
had resulted in changes to the locations of muscle insertion.
These differences can now be seen as appropriate for
rotating the eye in the sagittal plane, with the obliquus
muscles pulling the eye forward and down, and the rectus
superior and rectus internus returning it to an upright
position. The position of the rectus inferior, at the center of
the mesial tube wall, is such that its insertion serves as a
node around which the eye can pivot. Likewise, the optic
nerve enters the eye near the same point, at the axis of
rotation, which reduces twisting during rotation. Anatom-
ically and behaviorally, the default position of the eyes is
When the eyes are directed rostrally, the olfactory
chambers may partially obscure a portion of the visual field
in front of each eye. However, there is a central, unobstruct-
ed area of the presumably binocular visual field that is lined
up over the mouth. The forward-looking tubular eyes of
metamorphosed males of Linophryne also look through
transparent olfactory organs (Bone and Marshall, 1982). In
his examination of the skull of Macropinna, Chapman (1942)
noted that the large, translucent suborbital bones do not
Fig. 2. Lateral views of the head of a living specimen of Macropinna microstoma, in a shipboard laboratory aquarium: (A) with the tubular eyes
directed dorsally; (B) with the eyes directed rostrally. The apparent differences in lip pigmentation between (A) and (B) are because they were
photographed at slightly different angles. (A) was shot from a more dorsal perspective and it shows the lenses of both eyes; the mouth is not sharply
in focus. (B) shows only the right eye, with the lips in sharper focus.
782 Copeia 2008, No. 4
anteromesially above the mesethmoid.’’ Thus, while the
tubular eyes are protected laterally, their rostral view is
unobstructed by bone. Instead, the suborbitals verge on a
‘‘ . . . gelatinous mass between the olfactory capsule and the
frontal . . . ’’ (Chapman, 1942). This skull structure allows a
clear, central view forward for both eyes when they are
directed rostrally.
Tubular eyes appear almost exclusively in fishes that
occupy the lower reaches of the mesopelagic depth range
(Marshall, 1971). This is a region of dim light and shadows,
where the ambient daylight is monochromatic and highly
directional, and where visual trickery is common (Robison,
1999). Fishes of the family Opisthoproctidae typically
inhabit the lower mesopelagic, and they exhibit more
examples of unusual eye modifications than any compara-
ble group. Macropinna has obviously invested a considerable
amount of evolutionary currency to develop its remarkably
structured head and the tubular eyes it contains. Our
observations suggest how it employs these structures.
Bertelsen and Munk (1964) proposed that the function of
the dorsally directed eyes of Opisthoproctus might be part of a
recognition process, coupled to the ventrally directed
luminescence produced by its rectal light organ. No such
light organ has been found on Macropinna. It seems much
more likely that the tubular eyes of Macropinna, coupled to
the great stability provided by its widespread pelvic fins, are
designed chiefly to enhance its ability to perceive and
capture prey in dim light.
The green color of the eye lenses of Macropinna is due to the
presence of yellow pigment (McFall-Ngai et al., 1988). Several
deep-living fishes with tubular eyes (Stylephorus,Scopelarchus,
Benthalbella,Argyropelecus) have yellow lenses (reviewed by
Douglas et al., 1998), and Cohen (1964) has noted green
lenses in a specimen of Opisthoproctus grimaldii. This feature is
believed to provide a specific filtering capability that
decreases the apparent brightness of downwelling sunlight,
against which the bioluminescent counterillumination of
prey will then stand out (Muntz, 1976; Herring, 2002). In this
respect, Macropinna is probably well equipped for scanning
the waters above for bioluminescent prey.
Large, bioluminescent siphonophores of the genus Apole-
mia are very common at lower mesopelagic depths in
Monterey Bay. Reaching lengths of ten meters or more,
these slow-moving colonies accumulate a broad variety of
prey in their tentacles and gastrozooids, which except for
the presence of stinging tentacles, are open to appropriation
by other animals (Robison, 1995, 2004). The ability of
Macropinna to scan the water overhead for potential prey, to
recognize bioluminescence against the background, and to
move into a cluster of tentacles with its eyes protected, make
Apolemia a likely source of food. Fan-like fins have been
associated with fishes that maneuver around objects such as
siphonophores (Janssen et al., 1989).
Regardless of the specific source of prey, the particular
morphology of the eyes of Macropinna would appear to allow
at least two feeding modes: 1) with the body horizontal and
the eyes directed upward, the fish spots food against the
lighted waters above. While the fish pivots its body to bring
the mouth up for ingestion, the eyes remain locked on
target, rotating from dorsal to rostral relative to the body; 2)
with the body horizontal, the eyes rotate from dorsal to
rostral while tracking the path of descending food, until it
reaches the level of the mouth. The discovery that Macro-
pinna can change the position of its eyes resolves the
apparent paradox of how it can see to feed with eyes that are
directed away from its mouth. Whether this solution applies
to Opisthoproctus,Dolichopteryx, and other fishes with
upward-directed tubular eyes, remains to be seen.
We thank the pilots of the ROVs Ventana and Tiburon for
their patience and skills in conducting these midwater
operations. The officers and crews of the R/V Point Lobos and
the R/V Western Flyer provided invaluable logistical support.
R. Sherlock, J. Drazen, and K. Osborn helped us at sea and
ashore. This research was supported by the David and Lucile
Packard Foundation through MBARI.
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784 Copeia 2008, No. 4
... Many small water-borne animals, such as fish larvae, are transparent in order to survive natural selection. For example, eel (Leptocephali), surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) have very transparent larvae, and some larger fish, such as barreleye fish (Macropinna microstoma), develop a transparent shield on their head, including part of the cranium, which remains transparent in adulthood (Robison and Reisenbichler, 2008) [62]. It was proposed that these fish are transparent as a result of their bodies having energy storage in the form of transparent inert materials that consist primarily of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) compounds matrix with overall RI about 1.43 (Pfeiler 1988;Pfeiler et al. 2002;Miller, 2009) [63][64][65]. ...
... Many small water-borne animals, such as fish larvae, are transparent in order to survive natural selection. For example, eel (Leptocephali), surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) have very transparent larvae, and some larger fish, such as barreleye fish (Macropinna microstoma), develop a transparent shield on their head, including part of the cranium, which remains transparent in adulthood (Robison and Reisenbichler, 2008) [62]. It was proposed that these fish are transparent as a result of their bodies having energy storage in the form of transparent inert materials that consist primarily of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) compounds matrix with overall RI about 1.43 (Pfeiler 1988;Pfeiler et al. 2002;Miller, 2009) [63][64][65]. ...
... However, some animals naturally develop transparent bone that is highly mineralized. Many fish larvae have transparent bones, and part of the cranium of barreleye fish remains transparent during their lifetime, but the underlying physical principles are poorly understood (Robison and Reisenbichler, 2008) [62]. It was shown that the heavily mineralized teeth of the deep-sea dragonfish remain unusually transparent (in order to optically trick their prey), as they have special nanostructured dentin consisting of a woven pattern of nanometer rods (5 nm in diameter with 0.8 nm spacing) that nearly eliminates light scattering (Velasco-Hogan et al., 2019) [95]. ...
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In vivo tissue transparency in the visible light spectrum is beneficial for many research applications that use optical methods, whether it involves in vivo optical imaging of cells or their activity, or optical intervention to affect cells or their activity deep inside tissues, such as brain tissue. The classical view is that a tissue is transparent if it neither absorbs nor scatters light, and thus absorption and scattering are the key elements to be controlled to reach the necessary transparency. This review focuses on the latest genetic and chemical approaches for the decoloration of tissue pigments to reduce visible light absorption and the methods to reduce scattering in live tissues. We also discuss the possible molecules involved in transparency.
... The barrel eye species, Macropinna microstoma, has a transparent protective dome over the top of its head, somewhat like the dome over an airplane cockpit, through which the lenses of its eyes can be seen. The dome is tough and flexible, and presumably protects the eyes from the nematocysts (stinging cells) of the siphonophores from which it is believed that the barrel eye steals the food (Robison and Reisenbichler, 2008). ...
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... Extension of the field of view of tubular-eyed species is also achieved by rotation of the eyes in the head. So far this adaptation has been observed in two species of Opisthoproctidae, Macropinna microstoma [66] and in Winteria telescopa (unpublished, personal observation), most likely allowing the animal to detect prey against downwelling light when eyes are in the dorsal position and to see the targeted prey in front of the mouth when eyes are in the rostral position. It should be noted that the position of the tubular eyes of another species, Stylephorus chordatus, also changes, but in that case, change in direction is either associated with body position -S. ...
The deep-sea is the largest and one of the dimmest habitats on earth. In this extreme environment, every photon counts and may make the difference between life and death for its inhabitants. Two sources of light are present in the deep-sea; downwelling light, that becomes dimmer and spectrally narrower with increasing depth until completely disappearing at around 1000 m, and bioluminescence, the light emitted by animals themselves. Despite these relatively dark and inhospitable conditions, many teleost fish have made the deep-sea their home, relying heavily on vision to survive. Their visual systems have had to adapt, sometimes in astonishing and bizarre ways. This review examines some aspects of the visual system of deep-sea teleosts and highlights the exceptional diversity in both optical and retinal specialisations. We also reveal how widespread several of these adaptations are across the deep-sea teleost phylogeny. Finally, the significance of some recent findings as well as the surprising diversity in visual adaptations is discussed.
... These range from simple retina-containing outpouchings, usually of the lateral ocular wall, in Opisthoproctus, Winteria, Gigantura and Stylephorus (Brauer 1908;Munk 1966;Locket 1977;Collin et al. 1997), which presumably do little more than sense unfocussed light, to more complex 'secondary eyes' producing better focussed images using either reflective (Dolichopteryx longipes- Wagner et al. 2009; Rhynchohyalus natalensis- Partridge et al. 2014) or refractive (Bathylychnops exilis- Pearcy et al. 1965) optics. The limited visual fields of the normally dorsally directed eyes of at least some barreleyed fish can be further extended by rotating their tubular eye in a forward direction (Macropinna microstoma- Robison and Reisenbichler 2008). ...
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The ‘optical fold’ of Evermanella balbo covers the ventro-lateral cornea and is presumed to capture illumination that would otherwise remain undetected by the tubular eye of this mesopelagic teleost. It contains alternating bands of cellular and acellular material, running approximately perpendicular to the lateral surface of the eye. Only parts of this lamellar body lie within the eyelid-like structure. The cellular lamellae are 2–2.5 μm thick centrally and composed of fibroblast-like cells. The extracellular bands (4.5–5 μm thick) contain regular arrays of collagen fibrils, with layers of thin fibrils sandwiching a region of thicker fibrils. The thin fibrils are organised in alternating sheets where fibrils, although all parallel, change their orientation by 90° between each sheet. All thick fibrils are oriented parallel to the lateral surface of the ‘optical fold’. In the main retina, small bundles of rod inner/outer segments are separated by the processes of the retinal pigment epithelium (rpe) laterally. Centrally, the length of tightly packed rods increases, but rpe processes no longer divide them into bundles. Medially, rod length increases further, but packing is less dense. The accessory retina is significantly thinner, and less well-developed than the main retina. Ventrally, the rods show no regular arrangement and are not grouped. Dorsally, however, rods are arranged into bundles, separated by melanosome-filled rpe processes. The thickness of the retina increases as it approaches the crystalline lens. It is on this dorsal accessory retina that light traversing the ‘optical fold’ most likely falls, facilitating the detection of moving objects in the ventro-lateral field of view.
... Thanks to its transparency the shield poses no limits to eye move ments; the eyes can be turned inside this structure to be directed dorsally or rostrally. This feature has never been observed before in other Macropinna specimens collected by midwater trawls due to its extreme fragility (Robison & Reisenbichler, 2008). ...
After 150 years of exploration, we now know the deep sea represents the largest complex of ecosystems on our planet which embrace the greatest number of animal species and biomass of the living world. However, there is still a great deal more information that is needed to improve our knowledge of deep-sea faunal dynamics which demands more and better targeted sampling. In this chapter we outline the main biological characteristics of deep-sea organisms, describing aspects of animal life forms, behaviours and adaptations to the deep sea that could affect sampling techniques and survey design. Aspects of spatial and temporal distribution patterns of diversity and abundance are also described for both benthic and pelagic fauna, and examples given of various related sampling issues. The deep sea hosts a huge variety of animal types and faunal communities, with highly variable characteristics. Consideration of these characteristics provides a useful biological context for the sampling techniques that are covered in subsequent chapters of this book.
... Although visual capabilities to detect shadows against the downwelling background are dramatically improved, it is often at the expense of the rest of the visual field. As a result, some tubular eyed species have evolved additional specializations to re-extend signal detection in other parts of the visual field (frontal eye rotation [55], accessory retina [56], lens pad [39], retinal diverticulum [57]), but in most cases, their visual system still remains restricted to largely upward viewing. Lanternfishes, with their large eyes and slender body shape possess a very large monocular field of view in addition to possible binocular vision frontally, dorsally and ventrally [31]. ...
Ecological and behavioural constraints play a major role in shaping the visual system of different organisms. In the mesopelagic zone of the deep- sea, between 200 and 1000 m, very low intensities of downwelling light remain, creating one of the dimmest habitats in the world. This ambient light is, however, enhanced by a multitude of bioluminescent signals emitted by its inhabitants, but these are generally dim and intermittent. As a result, the visual system of mesopelagic organisms has been pushed to its sensitivity limits in order to function in this extreme environment. This review covers the current body of knowledge on the visual system of one of the most abundant and intensely studied groups of mesopelagic fishes: the lanternfish (Myctophidae). We discuss how the plasticity, performance and novelty of its visual adaptations, compared with other deep-sea fishes, might have contributed to the diversity and abundance of this family. This article is part of the themed issue ‘Vision in dim light’.
... The latter species famed opisthoproctid fishes from in situ ROV observations off California, showing for the first time a transparent integument shield covering the inside situated dorsally directed eyes with green lenses. The tubular eyes are being protected by a fluid-filled chamber of unknown substance, plausibly screening the eyes from the stinging cells of siphonophores [21]. Macropinna microstoma presents the only other "short bodied" opisthoproctid in the family, although it lacks the unique ventral sole of Opisthoproctus and Monacoa. ...
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The family Opisthoproctidae (barreleyes) constitutes one of the most peculiar looking and unknown deep-sea fish groups in terms of taxonomy and specialized adaptations. All the species in the family are united by the possession of tubular eyes, with one distinct lineage exhibiting also drastic shortening of the body. Two new species of the mesopelagic opisthoproctid mirrorbelly genus Monacoa are described based on pigmentation patterns of the “sole”—a unique vertebrate structure used in the reflection and control of bioluminescence in most short-bodied forms. Different pigmentation patterns of the soles, previously noted as intraspecific variations based on preserved specimens, are here shown species-specific and likely used for communication in addition to counter-illumination of down-welling sunlight. The genus Monacoa is resurrected from Opisthoproctus based on extensive morphological synaphomorphies pertaining to the anal fin and snout. Doubling the species diversity within sole-bearing opisthoproctids, including recognition of two genera, is unambiguously supported by mitogenomic DNA sequence data. Regular fixation with formalin and alcohol preservation is shown problematic concerning the retention of species-specific pigmentation patterns. Examination or photos of fresh material before formalin fixation is shown paramount for correct species recognition of sole-bearing opisthoproctids—a relatively unknown issue concerning species diversity in the deep-sea pelagic realm.
... The most remarkable cranial feature of M. microstoma is the structure of its eyes, which are protected by a gelatinous mass dorsally and by greatly enlarged translucent infraorbital bones laterally (Chapman, 1942). In situ observation shows that M. microstoma can change the position of its eyes from dorsally directed to rostrally directed, thus receiving binocular input while hunting prey (Robison and Reisenbichler, 2008). ...
The first fossil spookfish (Argentiniformes: Opisthoproctidae) is described from deposits of the middle-upper Miocene Kurasi Formation of Sakhalin Island, Russia. The fossil is placed in the family Opisthoproctidae because of the posterior position of its dorsal fin, along with a very small mouth and very long pelvic fin. It is referred further to the genus Macropinna, based on the placement of the anterior margin of the anal fin under the posterior part of dorsal fin, and a close correspondence in vertebra and fin ray counts and body proportions with the only living species, Macropinna microstoma Chapman, 19394. Chapman, W. M. 1939. Eleven new species and three new genera of oceanic fishes collected by the International Fisheries Commission from the northeastern Pacific. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 86:501–542.View all references. The great similarity between fossil and Recent barreleyes suggests that this Miocene form is a representative of the Recent species or a stem member of M. microstoma.Citation for this article: Nazarkin, M. V. 2016. Barreleye Macropinna sp. (Argentiniformes, Opisthoproctidae) from the Miocene of Sakhalin Island, Russia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2016.1187158.
Sönke Johnsen and Steve Haddock introduce the remarkable deep-sea fish Macropinna microstoma whose transparent head and rotating tubular eyes are two novel adaptations that allow it to see and hunt at depth.
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We analyzed the biochemical, anatomical, and spectrophotometric characteristics of lens pigmentation in representatives of two mesopelagic fish families, the Opisthoproctidae and the Scopelarchidae. In small and large specimens of the opisthoproctid Macropinna microstoma and in the larval scopelarchid Benthalbella infans, the lens pigment was present in all layers of the lens as a freely diffusable chromophore. In contrast, the lenses in the adult specimens of the scopelarchid Benthalbella dentata, which have lenses averaging 6.7 mm in diameter, had a 2.4 mm-diameter pigmentless core. In this species, the chromophore was bound to one of the major structural proteins of the lens, gamma crystallin. Because the lens grows by the layering of new cells over older ones, such a pattern in B. dentata suggests that the lens pigment is not present in larvae of this species. The chromophores of all specimens were characterized by a single broad peak in the shorter-wavelength blue, near-UV portion of the spectrum.
The world's deep oceans are home to a number of teleosts with asymmetrical or tubular eyes. These immobile eyes possess large spherical lenses and subtend a large binocular visual field directed either dorsally or rostrally. Derived from a lateral non-tubular eye, the tubular eye is comprised of a thick main retina, subserving the rostrally or dorsally directed binocular visual field, and a thin accessory retina subserving, the lateral, monocular visual field. The main retina is thought to receive a focussed image, while the accessory retina is too close to the lens for a focussed image to be received. Several species also possess retinal diverticula, which are small evaginations of differentiated retina located in the rostrolateral wall of the eye and thought to increase the visual field. In order to investigate the spatial resolving power of these retinae (main, accessory and diverticulum), the distribution of cells within the ganglion cell layer was analysed from retinal wholemounts and sectioned material in ten species representing four genera. In all species, the main retina possesses a marked increase in cell density towards a specialised retinal region (area centralis), with a centro-peripheral gradient range between 7:1 and 60:1 and a peak density range of between 30 and 55x10³ cells per mm². The accessory retinae and the transitional zone between the main and accessory retinae possess relatively low cell densities (between 1 and 10 × 10³ cells per mm²) and lack an area centralis. Retinal diverticula examined in four species possess mean ganglion cell densities of between 7.2 and 109.4xl0³ cells per mm². Analyses of soma areas show that the ganglion cell layer of most species possesses cells with areas in a range of 8.0 to 15.4 μm² in the main retina and between 15.1 and 17.4 μm² in the accessory retina. The peak spatial resolving power of the main retina of the ten species varies from 4.1 to 9.1 cycles per degree. The positions of the retinal areae centrales relative to each species' binocular visual field are discussed in relation to what is known of feeding behaviour of these fishes in the deep-sea.
The unique feeding mechanism of Stylephorus chordatus depends on negative pressure created by the expansion of a membranous pouch that connects the cranium to an elongate, tubular mouth. Volume enlargement produced by this expansion may be as great as 38 times the volume of the closed buccal cavity. The tremendous, apparently rapid increase in volume provides for a high rate of water flow into the mouth cavity and thus an efficient sucking device for prey capture. Evidence is provided to indicate that Stylephorus hangs, head-up in the water column, feeding on small planktonic organisms, mainly copepods.