Top 8 Interesting Snaggletooth Fish Facts

The deep ocean is a dark and unforgiving world in which only fully adapted creatures can survive.

The ocean creatures described in this article have developed features that allow them to inhabit one of the most terrifying places on the planet.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Snaggletooth fish, a type of fish also known as “stareaters.”

PS: While there are numerous other species, the information below is about a particular species of this fish known as the “Astronesthes niger.”

1. Snaggletooths is the common name of a genus of deepsea fish

The Snaggletooth or Stareater are the common names of a type of deepsea fish in the genus “Astronesthes.”

This genus consists of 48 different types of species, including the “Astronesthes niger” and the Astronesthes richardsoni.”

The latter was named in honor of Scottish naturalist John Richardson (1787-1865) after it was first described by Cuban zoologist Felipe Poey (1799-1891) in 1852.

This genus is part of the family Stomiidae to which also the Deep Sea Dragonfish belongs. This family consists of numerous genera of small, ray-finned, deepsea fish.

Astronesthes niger
Astronesthes niger / Wiki Commons

2. They live at extreme depths in several of the world’s oceans

This type of fish lives in the dark world of the deep sea. They occur at depths of up to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) and are fully adapted to live in complete darkness and extreme levels of pressure.

They do, however, migrate vertically based on the position of the moon. When the moon or sun shines brightly onto the ocean’s surface, they prefer to stay in the darker parts below.

The range of this fish species is extremely wide as well. They can be found in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, and prefer Subtropical or Tropical waters.

They have also been found in the western part of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean as well.

3. These fish can produce light using a special feature

How is it possible that these animals can live in complete darkness and even avoid the little rays of light that come to them?

The answer is the peculiar bioluminescent red barrel that sticks out of their chin. This is an organ that can produce light.

While it helps them to see right in front of them as if they are holding a flashlight, its main function is to lure in prey (yes, these are ferocious predators).

Snaggletooth fish facts
Detail of the barrel hanging from the fish’s chin / Wiki Commons

4. They are equipped with other organs that can produce light as well

This bioluminescent red barrel isn’t the only organ of this type of fish that can produce light. Other organs that are known as photophores line the side of their slender bodies.

Apart from the two rows of photophores, glandular organs that can produce light on the fish’s body, there are multiple other places on their bodies that have these:

  • In front of the eye
  • Just above the nostrils
  • Just above the eye
  • A large patch covering the area above the pectoral fin

5. How big is the Snaggletooth fish?

All members of the genus Astronesthes are relatively small fish with elongated black bodies. Like most deepsea creatures, they have extremely delicate skin as well.

The maximum length of these fish is approximately 16 centimeters (6.3 inches).

Other members of the family Stomiidae have a length of anywhere between 15 and 26 centimeters (5.9 x 10.23 inches) which means this is one of the smaller genera in this family.

Stareater fish facts
Astronesthes martensii / Thomas Gloerfelt-Tarp / Wiki Commons

6. What does this type of fish eat?

The size of these fish might indicate that these are sitting ducks for large predators in the deep sea, but this couldn’t be more inaccurate.

Their mouths are filled with razor-sharp teeth and they don’t hesitate to attack. They do so whenever an unfortunate creature comes too close to the illuminated barrel that hangs in front of them.

The unfortunate creatures that serve as prey for these ferocious predators are krill, amphipods, and lanternfishes.

7. These fish have an unusually big mouth

The gulper eel and black swallower possess a feature that allows them to swallow prey larger than their mouth itself.

This isn’t present in the 48 species of Snaggletooth fish, but they do have an unusually large mouth that allows them to swallow large prey.

This vertical mouth is pretty much needed to swallow lanternfishes which range in size from 2 to 15 centimeters (0.79 to 5.9 inches).

8. We don’t know much about the reproductive features of this fish

The depth of the ocean is one of the few places in the world that still holds a lot of mysteries. One of these is how the snaggletooth fish reproduces.

Little is known about the reproduction of this type of fish and how their larvae develop. It’s impossible to monitor their behavior at depths of up to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) below the ocean’s surface.

Their habitat is called the “mesopelagic zone” or “twilight zone.” This is situated at a depth of 200 to 1,000 meters (656 to 3,280 feet).

Only 1% of the sunlight present at the ocean’s surface reaches this place. Yes, this is very much an incredibly dark and gloomy world.

Astronesthes similus
Astronesthes similus / Wiki Commons