The ribbonfish are an open water fish that are named after its slim, ribbon-like appearance. They live in deep waters (but are not bottom feeders) and are rarely seen alive. They are easily recognised from other fish species due to their long, compressed, ribbon or tape-shaped body, short head, and narrow mouth.

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Drawing of a ribbonfish

They also have a high dorsal fin that actually occupies the entire length of its back, caudal fin, but no anal fin. It also has small pectoral fins. They have heavy spines and have lots of lumps on their skin. Other than that, the ribbonfish possesses all of the characteristics that a fish does that lives in the deep water. This includes having a delicate and brittle structure.

Ribbonfish specimens have been found in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. However, they are most commonly found in the northern coastlines of the world such as in Scandanavia, Iceland, Scotland, and Orkney. The species found in the northern Atlantic Ocean is called the dealfish and can be between 5 – 8 feet long.

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Happy find!

These specimens are usually found when there have been strong gales in the winter and therefore their bodies are washed up onto shore. Sometimes they are left there by the tide. S. Nilsson observed a living specimen in Scandanavia, and said that the ribbonfish was moving like a flatfish, with one of its sides turned upwards. It was moving at 2 to 3 fathoms. Another person in Taiwan found a ribbonfish in November 2007. The ribbonfish was alive and had a 10 cm gash on its side. Fortunately for this ribbonfish, it survived and returned into water.

In Taiwan, the species called Trachipterus ishikawae is dubbed the earthquake fish. This is because they appear following major earthquake events as they are alleged to be sensitive to disturbances on the ocean floor. The species of ribbonfish did appear in the earthquakes in Hengchun (2006) and Taidon (2007), as well as in Japan in 2010. However, other recorded sightings of the ribbonfish do not match with any earthquake or seismic disturbances.


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