By Tui Benjamin
Boffins have discovered a nightmarish LIZARD FISH hybrid with hundreds of teeth during a deep sea expedition in Australia.
The ‘monster’ lizard fish, officially known as Bathysaurus ferox, was found at ocean depths of 2,500 metres off the coast of Tasmania.
And the ‘terrifying’ animal – whose scientific name literally translates as ‘fierce deep sea lizard’ – is also a hermaphrodite, meaning it has both male and female reproductive organs.
Asher Flatt, on board communicator on the RV Investigator, which discovered the creature, said: “There are still monsters in the deep dark places of the world – at least there are if you’re an unsuspecting deep sea fish.
“One of the many things lying in wait to eat you is the deep sea lizard fish.
“This terrifying terror of the deep is largely made up of a mouth and hinged teeth, so once it has you in its jaws there is no escape.
“The more you struggle, the further into its mouth you go.
“Being the dominant predator of the depths isn’t easy though; at depths of 1,000 to 2,500 metres there is very little food, so lizard fish are few and far between to maximize scarce resources.
“And love can be even harder to find in the deep than a meal, a struggle that has nudged the lizard fish down the evolutionary path to hermaphroditism.
“They have both male and female reproductive organs, so whatever other Bathysaurus ferox they come across will be both Mr Right and Miss Right.
“How could you not love a face like that!”
The ‘monster’ creature was found by trawling crafts in the Flinders Commonwealth Marine Reserve, off the north-eastern coast of Tasmania.
Researchers from Museums Victoria and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) discovered the monster.
And scientist John Pogonoski, from CSIRO, said he recognised the fearsome predator as soon as he removed it from the RV Investigator’s beam trawl.
John said: “I noticed the long dorsal fin base characteristic of Bathysaurus ferox as the only other species in the genus, Bathysaurus mollis, has a short dorsal fin base and a very small second dorsal fin near the tail.
“The large eyes and teeth are classical features of an ambush predator. It waits for prey and once it grabs hold of something it can use its flexible teeth to move the prey into the back of its mouth.
“The deep sea lizard fish’s scientific name basically just translates as ‘fierce deep sea lizard’.