Spotted ratfish are unlike anything you have ever seen before.
They have smooth, scaleless skin that is silvery-bronze in color, with sparkling shades of gold, blue, green, or a pinky-purple sort of color, and are speckled with white spots. Their tail is almost half of their body length and looks like a rat’s tail, which is how they get their name.
They have a long venomous spine in front of the dorsal fin, and their pectoral fins are big triangles, that go straight out from the body and look like airplane wings. On their cute rabbit-like faces, they have large emerald green eyes that are able to reflect light, similarly to the eyes of a cat. Oh, and they have an extra sexual organ in the middle of their forehead, like a horn on a unicorn, which they use to hold onto the female’s dorsal fin during mating. Is that freaky enough for you?
Spotted ratfish are among the deepest living fishes, ranging from depths of 0 to 3,000 feet below sea level. They are related to sharks and rays, and are considered to be the missing link between the bony and cartilaginous fishes because they have characteristics of both.
Ratfish flap their large wing-like pectoral fins to move, which makes them look incredibly graceful. Normally, they glide over the seafloor in search for crunchy foods like crabs and clams. But when I took care of these little guys at the Florida Aquarium, we would feed them shrimp. Feeding the ratfish was always one of my favorite parts of the day, because they turned into graceful little ballerinas at feeding time. Imagine water ballet, with all of its synchronized swimmers. Well, when I would feed the ratfish, they would swim up to the surface, and bring the tops of their bodies out of the water, twirling around, as if they were dancing.
I’ve been to a LOT of aquariums around the world (about 18 or so!) and the Florida Aquarium is the only one that I’ve been to that has these little guys. I’m glad they do, because I probably wouldn’t have ever found out about such a cool, cute, weird, and freaky little fish otherwise. If you get a chance to ever see them in person, make sure you do!