Redeye Gaper, Chaunax stigmaeus
Image Credit: Dr. Steve Ross (NOAA)/Wikipedia
The redeye gaper is native to the North Atlantic from New England to South Carolina of the United States. This species is a bottom dweller found in deep water on the outer continental shelf and upper continental slope. The depth range for this species is from 300 – 2400 feet in an environment of dead coral beds.
The first known capture of this species was on March 1, 1946 in a trawling net off the Atlantic City coast and was donated to the Academy of Natural Science. The name Stigmaeus means speckled in Greek.
The redeye gaper has a round compressed body with a very large head and mouth. The mouth has a lower jaw that protrudes out past the upper jaw slightly, and is lined with bands of teeth. The skin is pliable forming layers folding over the entire body and head. The body is also covered with minute velvety spines that are soft to the touch. The dorsal fin is used to attract prey by using a lure (esca) attached to it much in the same manner an angler would use a lure. It consists of a cluster of filaments that is dark in front and white behind. The length of the redeye gaper can reach 12 inches.
The color of the body is olive green with large splotches that are surrounded with small circular spots and often a kidney shaped or figure 8 blotch on the nape. The underside of the body is rose-colored with large lighter patches and red along the sides of the head and jaw. The redeye gaper gets its name by the deep red iris of the eye.
The redeye gaper is an ambush predator that will rest on the sea floor using its fins for support, moving only to capture prey or escape predators. If threatened, this fish will raise up and rapidly taking in water to expand its body.
When the redeye gaper is ready to feed, it will use the esca that is attached to the dorsal fin by wiggling it to attract prey.