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Mile High Natural Awakenings

Blackest Fish in the Sea Aid Scientific Research

Deep Sea Fish

Gilbert Cayamo/

Scientists from Duke University and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History have found that the skin of 16 species of deep-sea fish absorbs more than 99.95 percent of the light that hits them. As published in Current Biology, Dr. Karen Osborn co-led the research that discovered the extraordinary properties while attempting to photograph specimens. Even using cutting-edge equipment, she could not see any detail. “It didn’t matter how you set up the camera or lighting; [the fish] just sucked up all the light,” she tells BBC Science Focus. The source of the ultrablack color is melamin which is distributed within melanosomes that are densely packed into cells on the fish skin. Because of the unique shape and arrangement of these melanosomes, incoming light is redirected toward another cell to absorb it. In the deep-sea environment in which they live, even the smallest amount of reflected light can attract predators, so this form of camouflage improves their chances of survival. Some scientists believe it is possible to make similar ultra-black substances for sensitive optical equipment.
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