It’s a rat! It’s a fish! It’s a ratfish!
Actually, it’s only one of these…. a fish. But with a cartilaginous skeleton, the spotted ratfish is more closely related to sharks and rays than it is to bony fishes (like salmon). To add another animal reference to the mix, it’s been given the scientific name Hydrologus colliei, meaning “water hare,” for its bunny-like teeth.
Daniela P., exhibit graphic designer, chose to highlight the spotted ratfish for June’s Staff Pick of the Month because she wants to draw attention to an animal that is often hidden in the dark.
“Its habitat is purposely darkened, and is located at a transition spot between galleries, but those who stop to see it are greatly rewarded.”
These fish are found in the deep (100-900 m), coastal waters of the west coast from Alaska to Mexico, so the lights above their exhibit are dimmed to protect their light-sensitive eyes.
Daniela appreciates the “certain mysterious grace” the spotted ratfish have, noting that they seem to “fly by” whenever she goes to see them. Spotted ratfish are not particularly fast swimmers, so they rely on a venomous spine at the front of their dorsal (top) fins for protection.
Daniela nominated the spotted ratfish because “Many people miss seeing and appreciating this animal.” Now that you know, come see it in Treasures of the B.C. Coast.
Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.