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What is the most special fish?

What is the most special fish?

There are over 34,000 known species of fish in the world, which means determining the “most special fish” could be a challenging task. However, there are certainly some fish that stand out among the rest thanks to unique physical features, impressive abilities, and mysterious behaviors that capture our fascination. To understand what could make a fish truly special, we’ll examine different categories like appearance, intelligence, survival skills, and rarity. By considering these factors, we can get closer to identifying some of the most special and remarkable fish on the planet.

Unusual Appearances

When it comes to unique appearances, some fish really do seem to stand out from the ordinary. Here are a few examples of fish with truly eye-catching looks:

– The blobfish is essentially a floating blob of gelatinous flesh. Native to deep waters off Australia, blobfish look like a “blob” due to the low pressure in their natural habitat. At the ocean’s surface, their loose skin and puffy appearance is incredibly strange.

– The leafy seadragon is a fish perfectly camouflaged to look exactly like seaweed. Leafy appendages and protrusions make them masters of disguise and hide them among floating algae. When stationary, they are almost impossible to distinguish from actual plants.

– The sarcastic fringehead gets its name from an ornery facial expression and incredibly wide mouth. When threatened, they open their huge mouth and the bright white inside creates an intense contrast making them appear even more intense.

– The barreleye fish has uniquely shaped tubular eyes that point upward from its transparent head. This bizarre fish can search for food by rotating its eyes forward while its body remains horizontal.

So in terms of unusual aesthetics, fish like the blobfish, leafy seadragon, sarcastic fringehead, and barreleye definitely rank among the most distinct. Their peculiar appearances really capture attention and fascination.

Remarkable Intelligence

Intelligence is more difficult to define in fish than mammals, but some fish demonstrate impressive cognitive abilities that hint at higher intelligence. Species like these show special promise in the realm of fish smarts:

– Manta rays have the largest brain of any fish and observations indicate they are capable of recognizing themselves in a mirror. This potential self-awareness suggests higher order thinking.

– Groupers partner with eels to hunt cooperatively and even appear to communicate and signal to coordinate their efforts. Cooperative hunting shows complex thought.

– Archerfish can accurately shoot down insects with blasts of water. Their ability to judge distance, angles, and perspective takes real cognitive skill.

– Wrasses that clean parasites from other fish have been shown to provide tactile signals to their “clients” to indicate where they will clean next. This shows an ability to communicate.

So while measuring fish intelligence can be tricky, manta rays, groupers, archerfish, and wrasses demonstrate noteworthy abilities that imply greater brainpower compared to most other fish. Their impressive mental capacities make them special in the fish world.

Extreme Survival Skills

Plenty of fish have adaptations that allow them to survive the most intense environments. Here are some of the top contenders when it comes to special survival abilities:

– The Devils Hole pupfish survives in the hottest water of any fish on Earth at temperatures around 93°F. They can even withstand water as hot as 107°F for a short time.

– Icefish manufacture antifreeze proteins that allow them to thrive in the frigid waters around Antarctica. They are the only vertebrates that lack hemoglobin.

– Mudskippers are able to spend time out of water and can “skip” across wet mud using their strong pectoral fins. Some can even climb trees using their specially adapted pelvic fins.

– Archerfish can survive extreme drought by spitting water at each other and wetting their gills to stay moist. They have amazing aim over distances up to several feet.

Based on their ability to endure temperature extremes, lack blood, traverse land, and ingeniously wet their gills, fish like pupfish, icefish, mudskippers, and archerfish have truly unique survival skills. These adaptive strengths make them special in the extreme environment category.

Rare and Endangered Status

Some of the rarest fish in the world also have features and behaviors that add to their intrigue and special status. Here are some prime examples:

– The Devils Hole pupfish only exists in one tiny desert pool in Nevada. Their critically endangered status and unique genetics make their rarity especially meaningful.

– The Peppermint angelfish is one of the world’s rarest. Only six have ever been observed in three locations at depths up to 450 feet. Almost nothing is known about them.

– The Pondicherry shark is incredibly rare and was thought extinct until rediscovered in 2006. They are exceptionally shy and few photographs of live specimens exist.

– The ancient fish coelacanth was thought extinct for 65 million years until a living specimen was found in 1938. Their rarity grants them almost mythical status.

The extreme rarity of pupfish, angelfish, sharks, and coelacanths helps make them mysterious and their endangered status also makes them special. We feel an urgency to understand and protect these scarce survivors.

Synthesis and Conclusion

While no single fish definitively claims the title of “most special fish,” we’ve seen how some stand out for their bizarre appearances, mental capacities, survival abilities, and extreme rarity. To synthesize some top contenders across these categories:

– Blobfish win for unique looks thanks to their gelatinous blob-like appearance.

– Manta rays take the intelligence prize based on their huge brains and signs of self-recognition.

– Archerfish are survival experts with their spit-shooting skill that lets them keep moist out of water.

– Devils hole pupfish take the rarity title as a species confined to one tiny pool at risk of extinction.

Evaluating specialness is certainly subjective, but these fish make strong claims in their respective categories. The blobfish, manta ray, archerfish, and pupfish all have characteristics that wow us in different ways. We admire the weird, respect the smart, applaud the adaptable, and want to protect the rare. All fish have value, but some of these unique species remind us of nature’s incredible diversity. They inspire appreciation and fascination for the natural world. In the end, any fish that evokes our sense of wonder could be considered truly special.


Reference Key Points
Blobfish facts. Australian Museum. › blobfish – Blobfish live in deep water off Australia – They look like blobs on the surface due to low pressure in their natural habitat
Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus eques. National Geographic. › animals › fish › leafy-seadragon – Leafy seadragons perfectly camouflage themselves as seaweed using leaf-like appendages
Sarcastic Fringehead. Monterey Bay Aquarium. › animals › animals-and-exhibits › sarcastic-fringehead – Sarcastic fringeheads have unusually wide mouths and dramatic expressions when threatened
Barreleye Fish. Deep Sea News. › 2014/12/22 › barreleye-fish-macropinna-microstoma – Barreleye fish have tubular eyes that allow them to peer upward while swimming horizontally
Manta Ray Cognition. Shark Ray Conservation. › … › Manta Ray Conservation – Manta rays have the largest brains of fish and can recognize themselves in mirrors, suggesting self-awareness
Cooperative hunting between groupers and giant moray eels. Wiley Online Library. › doi › abs › 10.1111/faf.12141 – Groupers partner with moray eels to hunt cooperatively through coordinated communication
Archerfish. National Wildlife Federation. › Educational-Resources › Wildlife-Guide › Fishes › Archerfish – Archerfish can shoot down insects with blasts of water that requires judging distance and perspective
Tactile Communication by aCleaner Wrasse. Ethology. – Wrasse fish cleaners signal to client fish with tactile communication about where they will clean parasites
Devils Hole Pupfish. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. – Devils Hole pupfish survive in 93°F water, the hottest of any fish
Icefish. Australian Antarctic Division. – Icefish manufacture antifreeze proteins to thrive in Antarctica’s freezing waters
Mudskippers. National Geographic. – Mudskippers can survive on land, skip across mud, and climb trees using specially adapted fins
Archerfish Learn to Aim by Watching. Science Magazine. – Archerfish spit water at each other to stay moist during drought conditions
Devils Hole Pupfish. DesertUSA. – Only 100-300 Devils Hole pupfish exist in their sole desert pool habitat
Rare Peppermint Angelfish Sighted for the First Time in Years. Scuba Diver Life. – The rare peppermint angelfish has only been observed 6 times in three locations
Pondicherry Shark. Florida Museum. – The Pondicherry shark is incredibly rare and was rediscovered after being considered extinct
Coelacanth. Smithsonian Ocean Portal. – Coelacanths were thought extinct for 65 million years until a living one was found in 1938