Deep-sea fishes - the masters of adaptation

Deep-sea fish may look like small, ugly monsters to us, but are actually a remarkable and perfect adaptation to a difficult habitat. In the dark depths of the oceans mysterious, hitherto poorly explored, wildlife exists. From a scientific viewpoint the deep-sea begins from a depth of 200 metres. Light and oxygen are scarce there and the temperatures are close to freezing. This means that unique and unusual life forms have developed.

Many deep-sea fish have huge mouths, very long and sharp teeth, light organs or use unusual hunting methods. They are experts in efficient hunting. Because food is scarce in their environment, every bite has to hit and each prey has to be caught. Nevertheless, in the deep sea, which is little-known to us, long periods of hunger and correspondingly slow growth are the rule.

On the ground floor of the MEERESMUSEUM there is a small exhibition area with insights into this strange, bizarre underwater world. In eternal darkness many animals illuminate themselves or do so with the help of bacteria that live in special light organs. These light sources are used to communicate with others of the same species, as bait to attract prey or as camouflage and to deceive predators. There is no place for fussiness here. If the prey is very large, many hunters can unlock their jaws extremely wide to devour the food.

Many types of deep sea organisms come to the surface in large quantities as a by-catch in fisheries for deep-sea fish and shrimp. These often very fragile animals do not survive this process. Many of the examples caught are heavily damaged by the nets and the weight of the catch and can rarely be experienced in their natural appearance.


  • Title: Frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)
  • Physical Location: Deutsches Meeresmuseum, Stiftung Deutsches Meeresmuseum
  • Rights: photo: Johannes-Maria Schlorke

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