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  • Paige B.

Weekly Wildlife: Black Swallower (Chiasmodon niger)

I'd like to go to a buffet with this stomach.

Where in the World?

Distribution: Worldwide - Mesopelagic and Bathypelagic Zones at a depth of 700-2,745 m (2,297-9,006 ft) Habitat: Tropical and Subtropical waters

What an Interesting Character

Get in my belly!

The Black Swallower feeds on bony fish that, at times, can be twice its length and 10 times its mass. The swallower will seize their prey and then "walk" their jaws down the prey until it is fully inside the stomach.

Distinguishing Traits

- Length: 25 cm (9.8 in)

- Body: Elongated, slender, and without scales

- Mouth: The lower jaw protrudes past the upper and a row of sharp teeth interlock when their mouth is closed

- Color: Brownish-black

We are Family

Class: Actinopterygii - Ray-finned fish: Fins are webs of skin supported by bony spines or "rays"

Order: Trachiniformes

Family: Chiasmodontidae

Genus: Chiasmodon - snaketooth or swallower fish

Facts of Life

- Most common species in the North Atlantic

- Sometimes will swallow prey so large that they cannont be digested before decomposition starts to set it - this results in the release of gases which force the swallower to the ocean surface

- In 2007 Black Swallower measuring 19 cm (7.5 in) long was found dead after swallowing an 86 cm (34 in) long snake mackerel

- Their stomach can be stretched so much it will become transparent

- There has never been a live Black Swallower caught on camera

Conservation Connection

Black Swallowers are a common and widespread ocean fish

Black swallower. (2019, November 11). Retrieved June 18, 2020, from
Black Swallower. (2011, March 25). Retrieved June 18, 2020, from
Goldfarb, K. (2018, February 16). This Fish Can Swallow Prey 10 Times Its Own Mass. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from
Crew, B. (2013, November 28). The black swallower. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from
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