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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Spotted Ratfish Hydrolagus colliei

The scientific name of the spotted ratfish means “water rabbit,” and it is also called the blunt-nosed chimaera. It belongs to the same family as the rabbit fish and is similar in shape, but unlike its relative, it does not have an anal fin on the underside next to the tail. Its pattern of white spots on a dark background may provide camouflage in the same way as the spots help to camouflage deer in a forest. The spotted ratfish uses its large pectoral fins to glide and flap its way over the seabed in search of its prey, which consists mainly of mollusks and crustaceans. Like other chimaeras, the female lays eggs, each one encased in a tadpole-shaped, protective capsule. The eggs are laid in the summer, two at a time, and are dropped onto the seabed.

The spotted ratfish is not fished commercially, since it is not very palatable, although it is sometimes unintentionally caught in nets along with other fish. It is not popular with fishermen because it has the ability to inflict a nasty wound with its sharp dorsal spine and can also deliver a painful bite. The spotted ratfish is frequently encountered at night by scuba divers, its large eyes glowing green by flashlight.

Spotted Ratfishzoom image
  • Order Chimaeriformes
  • Length Up to 3 ft (1 m)
  • Weight Not recorded
  • Depth Close inshore to at least 2,950 ft (900 m)
  • Distribution Northeastern Pacific
Spotted Ratfish habitat mapzoom image