‘Demonic’ Fish Glows in Eerie Photo

By Mindy Weisberger

It’s an unsettling image that seems more suited to a conversation about demonology than one about marine biology.

An armor-studded fish skeleton, its empty eye sockets fixed upon observers with a baleful stare, glows red under fluorescent light and against a black background, in a photo recently captured and shared on Twitter by Leo Smith, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at The University of Kansas.

But the fish is no demon, and the image wasn’t crafted in Photoshop or using digital manipulation — the color, glow and spiky studs that line the fish’s bones are all normal features of an aquatic oddball called the Pacific spiny lumpsucker (Eumicrotremus orbis), Smith told Live Science.

Pacific spiny lumpsuckers — when they’re alive — are genuinely adorable. They’re small and rotund, bearing a distinct resemblance to a spiky, bug-eyed golf ball. The common name is an apt description of the tiny fish, calling attention to their Pacific Ocean habitat, their coat of bony lumps — known as tubercles — and a large sucker on their stomachs that helps them cling to rocks, according to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

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