Sunday, October 9, 2011

Life of Spotted Ratfish

Life of Sea | Spotted Ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) | The Spotted ratfish, a chimaera is found in the north-eastern Pacific. Often seen by divers at night in the Pacific Northwest, this harmless shark relative is named after a characteristic pointed rat-like tail. The Spotted ratfish lays leathery egg cases on the floor of sand / mud areas which are often mistaken by divers as something lifeless. While primarily a deep sea species, it is in shallower in the northern part of the range. The Spotted ratfish is not typically eaten by humans and is not commercially fished.

Scientific classification
Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Chordata
Class:     Chondrichthyes
Subclass:     Holocephali
Order:     Chimaeriformes
Family:     Chimaeridae
Genus:     Hydrolagus
Species:     H. colliei
The Spotted ratfish has a very distinct appearance compared to no fish. These fish have smooth skin and scales is a silver-bronze color, often with brilliant shades of gold, blue and green. The speckled white spots along their backs to their name. Dark edges outline both the tail and dorsal fins, while the pectoral fins have a transparent overview. The ratfish The pectoral fins are large and triangular, and extend straight out the sides of their bodies, such as aircraft wings.

They have a venomous spine located at the leading edge of the dorsal fin. The tail of the ratfish is almost half of their length and strongly resembles a pointed rat-like tail. The body of this fish is supported by cartilage rather than bone. The mouth is small and contains forward-looking, tooth-shaped incisors, which act as a plate-like teeth grinding. One of their most fascinating features is their large emerald green eyes that are capable of reflecting light, similar to the eyes of a cat.

The Spotted ratfish swims slowly above the seafloor in search of food. Food is located by smell. Their usual hunting time in the night when they feed into shallow water. Spotted ratfish are mainly located on crunchy foods such as crabs and clams. Besides the crabs and mussels, spotted ratfish feeds on shrimp, worms, small fish, small crustaceans and starfish. Species known to predate on the spotted ratfish are Soupfin sharks, Dogfish, Pacific halibut, and Pigeon Guillemots.

Spotted ratfish migrate or move from deeper to shallower waters. They tend to gather in groups based on age and gender. The eggs are fertilized in the female by male sperm. Two egg capsules are laid every seven to ten days for the month. Ratfish rather about maintaining a safe distance from divers, and are usually not aggressive. However, if they feel their territory is invaded, the ratfish able to slightly toxic to inflict injury. When they swim, the ratfish perform barrel rolls and corkscrew turns, as if flying. At one time, ratfish were fished for their liver oil.  

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