One of the most peculiar creatures in the ocean has one incredible feature, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of black swallower facts!
1. They are part of the swallower family
The black swallower, known scientifically as the “Chiasmodon niger,” is a fish living in the deeper parts of the ocean and which is part of the Chiasmodontidae family.
They are part of the Percomorpha fish, a type of bony fish to which also tuna and anglerfish belong. The family they belong to is also sometimes referred to as “snake tooth fishes” or simply “swallowers.”
There are 8 recognizes species in the genus Chiasmodon to which they belong.
2. Where does the black swallower live?
Will you ever come across the black swallower? Not if they’re still alive because these fish live at great depths. Adult individuals can be found at a depth between 700 2,745 meters (2,297 and 9,006 feet) not exactly a place you want to hang out.
Juveniles live in shallower waters and gradually go deeper and deeper as they mature. Some can be found at depths of just 150 meters (492 feet) and the deepest an adult was ever found was at a depth of 3,900 meters (12,795 feet).
Their range is enormous and covers most parts of the world’s oceans, preferable in subtropic and tropic areas. Of the 8 recognized species in their genus, they are the most common species in the North Atlantic.
3. Is the black swallower an endangered species?
It’s impossible to determine how many individuals of this species are swimming around in the ocean right now. Because their range is so huge they are listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List.
This means this species is far from being endangered and because their conditions aren’t likely to change any time soon, this status will remain the same for a long period of time.
4. How big is the black swallower?
These are relatively small fish. most individuals grow up to a maximum length of 25 centimeters (9.8 inches), even though some individuals might grow bigger.
5. How does the black swallower look like?
Black swallowers have a long head and a long body and are completely dark brown or black in color. This makes them nearly invisible in their native habitat because there’s hardly any light here.
Being invisible is a huge benefit as they can attack their poor victims without them even realizing it!
6. They lack a common feature in other fish
The long body of this fish isn’t covered in scales. These are small plates present in most fish which is a form of defense. Because they live at such great depths and they are the predators in their habitat, they don’t need them.
This means their skin is relatively smooth and perfectly adapted for the deep ocean.
7. The black swallower has an enormous mouth
One of the most fascinating black swallower facts is that they have an enormously big mouth. The lower jaw can actually extend beyond the upper jaw, allowing the fish to swallow their prey.
8. They have teeth, but they prefer not to chew
They’re close to black and swallow their prey, hence they were called “black swallowers,” pretty simple, isn’t it?
Just because they prefer to swallow their prey whole doesn’t mean they don’t have teeth. After all, they first need to grab their prey and without teeth, it would simply slip out of their mouths.
That’s why each of their jaws is lined with a set of extremely sharp teeth. The first 3 teeth in each jaw resemble canine teeth and allow them to catch their prey, possibly by the tail, without an opportunity for it to escape.
9. They can eat fish twice their own size
One of the most remarkable black swallower facts is that they are capable of swallowing huge prey. And by huge, we mean prey about double its own length and 10 times its own mass!
This is all made possible because of jaws that can swing right open and their incredible expandable stomach. This stomach can extend to the point they appear to have a balloon attached to them after swallowing another bony fish whole.
10. Sometimes they get a bit too greedy
Because they swallow their prey whole, the food in their stomach sometimes doesn’t have enough time to digest and actually starts decomposing within their stomach.
If that’s not gross enough, this dead decomposing animal in their stomach starts producing gas which forces the black swallower to the surface of the ocean, effectively killing them in the process.
Back in 2007, a dead black swallower with a length of just 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) was found on the shores of Grand Cayman Island. Inside its stomach was an 86 centimeters (34 inches) long snake mackerel (Gempylus serpens) which had fallen victim to the predator.
The swallower was eventually killed because of the gas which forced him up to the ocean surface, and the greed of wanting to eat a creature 4 times its own size!
11. They have a simple way to reproduce
The reproduction of black swallowers is considered to be oviparous, which means the female fish simply lays eggs and that’s it. These eggs are about 1.1 to 1.3 millimeters (0.043 to 0.051 inches) in diameter and gradually travel to the surface of the ocean.
As the eggs hatch and the juveniles grow, they gradually move deeper and deeper into the depths of the seas to become a feared predator of the deep ocean!
12. The larvae have a specific form of protection
The way up to the surface of the ocean where the hatching happens and then back down to the ocean floor is full of danger. That’s why juveniles have developed some sort of defense mechanism in the form of small spikes covering its body.
These gradually disappear as the fish grows bigger and turns from potential prey into the predator, and what a scary predator it is, don’t you think?