Dragon fish see using chlorophyll


Most deep-sea fish have visual pigments that are most sensitive to wavelengths around 460-490 nm, the intensity maxima of both conventional blue bioluminescence and dim residual sunlight1. The predatory deep-sea dragon fish Malacosteus niger, the closely related Aristostomias sp. and Pachystomias microdon can, in addition to blue bioluminescence, also emit far-red light from suborbital photophores2, which is invisible to other deep-sea animals. Whereas Aristostomias sp. enhances its long-wavelength sensitivity using visual pigments that are unusually red sensitive3, we now report that M. niger attains the same result using a derivative of chlorophyll as a photosensitizer.

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Figure 1: Analysis of Malacosteus niger visual pigments.
Figure 2: Analysis of Malacosteus niger photosensitizing pigment.


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Douglas, R., Partridge, J., Dulai, K. et al. Dragon fish see using chlorophyll. Nature 393, 423–424 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/30871

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