When something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Take the case of the deep-sea siphonophore, which makes red light to trap its prey. A close relative of the jellyfish, it was recently discovered by a team of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) researchers.
Like all siphonophores, this unnamed species is what scientists call a “superorganism”: an animal that grows by budding off highly specialized structures, known as zooids. Each zooids performs a specific function, such as feeding or reproduction.
This creature’s feeding zooids employ unique red “lures” at the tips of some tentacles to catch unwitting passers-by. To the fish that fall for the alluring bait, the red fluorescent tip looks just like a fat, juicy crustacean. The dangling blobs themselves are harmless, but nearby tentacles are equipped with a battery of potent stinging cells, that make quick work of the small fish.
Photophores contained within the tips are responsible for producing the red light. MBARI scientist Steven Haddock believes the lures are an adaptation for living at depth, where food is scarce and fish are even scarcer.