The tripod fish (Bathypterois grallator) is a bottom-dwelling fish that is found in temperate and tropical waters in the aphotic zone.
This relatively small fish has modified pelvic and caudal fins that are elongated at the tips, called rays. These extremely long rays stick out of the pelvic fins as well as the lower caudal, or tail, fin. These rays are rigid while the fish perches over the substrate, but appear to be flexible when the fish swims away. Its pectoral fins, known as tactile organs, extend upward to detect prey much like antennae. The eyes have been significantly reduced since it lives in the aphotic zone. Their color ranges from bronze to pale with gray on the head, belly, and along the lower back.
Tripod fish spend most of their life perched on their fins on the ocean floor waiting for prey to pass by. It depends on its long and feathery pectoral fins to alert it when it senses food. Acting as hands, these long pectoral fins will then capture the food and direct it towards its mouth, which can extend very wide. They will eat small planktonic crustaceans, zooplankton, and any tiny organisms that drift through the current.
Although relatively more is now known about tripod fish as a result of new technology for deep-sea exploration, scientists continue to learn more about this species from submersible observations.
Tripod fish do not have any importance commercially, and do not appear to be threatened or endangered. However, the International Union For Conservation of Nature’s Red List has not yet assessed its conservation status.