Feb 24, 2009

Transparent Head

A bunch of you alert readers sent this in to me, and for good reason. It's not every day that we get to encounter a fish with a transparent head and barrel eyes.

I imagine most of us have experienced some variant of a teacher or parent derisively asking, "Hey, got anything between those ears?" while tapping your forehead. Well, this fish never has that problem. We can see exactly what's going on inside its head. Why is it transparent? The good folks at MBARI figured it out:

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recently solved the half-century-old mystery of a fish with tubular eyes and a transparent head. Ever since the "barreleye" fish Macropinna microstoma was first described in 1939, marine biologists have known that it's tubular eyes are very good at collecting light. However, the eyes were believed to be fixed in place and seemed to provide only a "tunnel-vision" view of whatever was directly above the fish's head. A new paper by Bruce Robison and Kim Reisenbichler shows that these unusual eyes can rotate within a transparent shield that covers the fish's head. This allows the barreleye to peer up at potential prey or focus forward to see what it is eating.

I can imagine all sorts of benefits of having a see-through dome. Medical examinations of the brain would be much easier, prospective mates could evaluate the probable intelligence of those who are courting them by inspecting the wrinkles of the neocortex, and I'm sure the fashion industry would come up with all sorts of fancy dies and inks that could be injected into the head to show how trendy you are. You might even be able to tattoo your brain. Oh, the possibilities. How about it, science? Can we do this or what?

Chances are though, if you've got a visible brain, you're probably a villain, a la Krang of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Science, you can stand down on this one.

Thanks for the Macropinna, Chris, Jade, Mike, Peer, Summer, Carrie, and Ida. Look at the end of this post for some video.


Mitch said...

That is the most alien thing I've ever seen!

Sabina E. said...

haha, the fish looks so stoned.

Anonymous said...

That's the freckist thing I ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Can you say Lucifer?

Anonymous said...

The fish looks very sad but I would look like that too if my head were transparent xD

Unknown said...

Simply amazing! This is by far the most bizarre fish I've ever seen.

mfb said...

Wow! That is incredible. I had not heard of that before.