Pacific Spotted Ratfish - Hydrolagus colliei

Pacific Spotted Ratfish

View all Pacific Spotted Ratfish Images in the Pacific Marine Index

A truly unique member of the elasmo family, the Pacific Spotted Ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) can be a beautifully grotesque encounter. These diminutive creatures are a grey-brown colouration, and covered in white spots with a silver underside. Their large, bulky snouts resemble a donkey of sorts, with small mouths and forward-directed teeth, and a long tapering tail. Ratfish swim by flapping their large forward fins.

The Pacific Spotted Ratfish belongs to the Chimaeras family and are cartilaginous fish in the order Chimaeriformes, known informally as ghost sharks, ratfish, spookfish, or rabbitfishes. They are believed to be the oldest and most enigmatic groups of fishes alive today. At one time these fish were a diverse and abundant group based on fossil records.  Their closest living relatives are sharks, though in evolutionary terms they branched off from sharks nearly 400 million years ago and have remained isolated ever since. These fish are typically confined to deep water, however a few species, including the Pacific Spotted Ratfish, can be found in shallow, intertidal waters. 

Getting images of ratfish can be quite fun, but challenging at the same time. These little fish move in quick short bursts and will do their very best to avoid swimming directly at a diver. One of the best techniques to capture a great image is to have a diver try and herd the ratfish towards the camera. This can create a striking image by having the ratfish swimming towards the camera and the diver in the background. Ratfish are quite reflective, and balancing your strobe light with the rest of the image can be a challenge. Adjusting the intensity of the strobes will help to properly expose the image.