Bizarre: Wolf fish

Lurk­ing in caves and cracks at the bot­tom of the At­lantic Ocean is a fanged fish hap­pi­est in wa­ter cold enough to kill most other crea­tures

World of Animals - - What’s Inside... -

The slip­pery fish with a dan­ger­ous smile

They have wolfish grins

Wolf fish get their name from their im­pres­sive fangs. Four to six sharp teeth oc­cupy the front of each jaw, while three rows of mo­lars sit fur­ther back for grind­ing and crush­ing food. To make sure ev­ery­thing is prop­erly bro­ken down be­fore it reaches the di­ges­tive sys­tem, there are even more teeth in the wolf fish’s throat.

They can sur­vive in icy wa­ter

Spend­ing most of their time ly­ing still in nooks and cran­nies on the seabed of deep parts of the ocean, wolf fish have evolved ways to cope with near-freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. To make sure it keeps flow­ing, the wolf fish’s blood con­tains nat­u­ral anti-freeze pro­teins that at­tach them­selves to any ice crys­tals be­gin­ning to form and stop them from grow­ing.

They swim like eels

Al­though they’re not closely related to the An­guil­li­formes, wolf fish are some­times re­ferred to as wolf eels. Rather than scales, the fish are cov­ered in skin, mak­ing them smooth. Their bod­ies are long and they lack pelvic fins, re­sult­ing in a slow, wig­gling style of swim­ming sim­i­lar to an eel’s.

They’re in no hurry to re­pro­duce

Slow to ma­ture, wolf fish aren’t thought to start breed­ing un­til they’re at least eight to ten years old. Males fer­tilise fe­males in­ter­nally – a rare oc­cur­rence in the ocean, where sex cells are usu­ally re­leased into the wa­ter by both sexes of a species – and will stand guard over the re­sult­ing eggs for weeks un­til they hatch, fend­ing off any would-be preda­tors.

They’re un­know­ingly eaten

Wolf fish are caught for food, but they’re of­ten sold in dis­guise. Cooked in fish and chip shops and pre­pared as fil­lets in fish­mon­gers to avoid cus­tomers be­ing put off by their un­usual ap­pear­ance, they’re given al­ter­na­tive names like Scar­bor­ough woof and Scotch hal­ibut. In­ten­sive fish­ing is re­duc­ing num­bers, and their late breed­ing age makes it hard for pop­u­la­tions to re­cover.

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