Elusive bronze-scaled ‘dragon’ of the deep caught on video off California coast

Marine biologists aboard an expedition in Monterey Bay in California recently spotted a brilliant and rare deep sea fish named for a mythical creature: the highfin dragonfish (Bathophilus flemingi). 

This species is the rarest of all dragonfish, and scientists have previously spotted living individuals only a handful of times. 

For three decades, researchers with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have scoured the bay's depths with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), finding many wondrous beasties, including several species of dragonfish. 

However, the highfin dragonfish has proven to be the most elusive. This particular fish was found at a depth of 980 feet (300 meters). 

"They are just amazing animals, and part of what is appealing is that color pattern," said Bruce Robison, a senior scientist with MBARI and research lead for the team that made the discovery. 

The dragonfish's scales shimmer with a metallic bronze hue that is unlike that of any other fish living in the deep sea, Robison told Live Science. 

The pigments that lend color to the fish’s brassy, bronze skin might actually be a form of camouflage. 

As these shades absorb the remnants of blue light that make it down to the depths, rendering the fish nearly invisible in its environment. 

"But when we shine our white lights on it, it’s just gorgeous," Robison said. This type of camouflage suits the fish, which hunts as an ambush predator. 

These meals don’t approach randomly, though. Rather, they are lured closer by the dragonfish, which has a bioluminescent filament that extends from its chin.