Pinecone Fish are 4 species of extremely safety-conscious fish which belong to the Monocentridae family.
|Image: Richard Ling|
Pineapplefish (Cleidopus gloriamaris)
Monocentris means "one spine", which is odd because it makes it sound as if they have, oh, I don't know... one spine. Maybe it's supposed to mean "one spine" per big, yellow bit?
Japanese Pinecone Fish (Monocentris japonica)
Only the tail is free of this armour, leaving it flexible enough to be used for swimming.
|Image: Takayama Sora|
Spikes. Lots and lots of spikes
But wait, there's more! On the underside, each pelvic fin comes complete with an enormous spine! This thing is about as long as the Pinecone's head and can be locked into an erect position. Basically it can cut throats from the inside, and that's unappetising. I can't even tolerate those tiny bones you get in salmon.
They call it Health & Safety, but sometimes one's safety necessitates a complete disregard for the health of others.
With all these spikes and spines you might think that the Pinecone Fish is closely related to those bristling pin cushions known as pufferfish. You'd be wrong! They actually belong to the order Beryciformes, along with the likes of the Flashlight Fish (the torch-bearer) and the Fangtooth (the werewolf).
Video: Mal Barry
Like other Beryciforms, Pinecone Fish are at home in darkness. They spend the day sheltering under rocky ledges or in caves, often in small groups. At night they become active at depths ranging from the surface all the way down to 200 metres (650 ft).
Pinecone Fish even have a pair of small, light-emitting photophores on their lower jaw. They're nothing like the blazing torches of the Flashlight Fish, but they're thought to attract small prey right to their mouth. These lights are green in young whipper-snappers but become red as the fish ages and approaches the Big Stop Light of Death.
And then of course there's the mucus. Pinecone Fish have mucus-filled pits in their head. Apparently it serves as a peculiar kind of lateral line, allowing them to feel vibrations in the dark water. It's also something they share with Fangtooths and other Beryciforms like the horribly but accurately named Slimeheads.
|Image: John Turnbull|
"I can't see a thing!"
"Don't worry. I'll get us out of here using my terrible, terrible flu-like symptoms."
That's probably the worst superhero ever.
Although, now I think about it... Pinecone, Flashlight, Fangtooth and Slimehead... Who's for Teenage Mutant Ninja Beryciforms?