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October 10, 2007

From Sumatra: The Porpische

by sven at 8:00 am

Reprinted with permission from Professor Ichbonnsen's Monster Month blog.

[click to enlarge]

The Porpische is an extremeophile: it lives in deep ocean crevasses, where immense pressures and volcanic heat vents make human exploration extremely difficult. Populations have been discovered off the eastern coast of Sumatra. Whether the species exists in other areas is not yet known.

The Porpische is large -- nearly twelve feet in length. With a long "bottle-nose," the animal looks somewhat like a dolphin. However, it is actually a form of fish -- with gills and a cartilaginous skeleton -- distantly related to sharks.

Porpische have a beautiful full-body bioluminescence. The entire animal glows with a ghostly pink light. When the animal is startled, the light suddenly winks out -- presumably to help hide it from predators. (What sort of deep-water leviathan hunts Porpische is currently a mystery.)

Rather than fins, the Porpische has two bat-like wings at its sides. The impression that the animal is actually "flying" through the water is astonishing. Like a bird that rides updrafts of warm air, it can use these wings to catch an updraft of hot water coming from a volcanic vent and soar swiftly upward. One can imagine that this ability occasionally provides the animal with a means of quick escape when it finds itself in danger.

Porpische seldom come up farther than the mouth of the chasms in which they live. Watching the glowing beasts gently circling back down into blackness, like a spiral of Christmas lights disappearing into the night, one's mind cannot help but be tattooed with a haunting sense of wonder. Myself, I count this experience as one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life to date.

posted by sven | October 10, 2007 8:00 AM | categories: bestiary