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Elephant Fish (Callorhinchus milii) Chimaera.

Elephant Fish (Callorhinchus milii)

All text on this page is copyright protected: © 2014 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Chimaeriformes
Family: Callorhinchidae
Genus: Callorhinchus
Species: milii
Taxonomic name: Callorhinchus milii
Other Common Names: Callorhinchus milii

The Elephant Fish (Callorhinchus milii) Chimaera must be the most spectacular of all the cartilaginous fish. When viewed from below, the skin is silvery white like aluminium foil but when viewed from above it has a disruptive pattern of large brown blotches and bands. It has two dorsal fins — the rear one being by far the smaller — and a long, elegant tapering tail that is used mainly as a rudder.

Its most distinctive feature is a plough-shaped nose that is used to search for food on the seabed. The end of the flexible snout is covered in sensory pores that detect movement and weak electrical currents. Behind and close to the snout is a small mouth with crushing plates. The eyes are large and set high on the head, while the face of this chimaera is traced with a map of sensory mucus-filled canals. The single gill opening is immediately in front of each large sculptured pectoral fin. It is the pectoral fins that supply the animal’s primary means of locomotion.

Annual Migrations and Defence

Males and females migrate from 200 m depths offshore to enter shallow coastal bays in spring and summer to breed. Here, females drop their golden-coloured egg cases which hatch eight months later.
Besides being well camouflaged, Elephant Fish defend themselves with a long serrated spine that is just in front of their first large dorsal fin.

Elephant Fish often have green eyes, like the other chimaera species and deep-water sharks. When they are caught and hauled to the surface they have yet to react to the surface light and are still a startling metallic green.

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