What You See When You Turn a Fish Inside Out
Smithsonian scientists use X-rays to classify different species, but when viewed outside the lab, the images provide stunning art
- By Megan Gambino
- Smithsonian.com, February 07, 2012
The longnose batfish (Ogcocephalus corniger) has a triangular body and an upturned nose similar to a bat's. The species is found at depths of 100 to 820 feet in waters along the southeastern United States and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. (Sandra J. Raredon, Division of Fishes, NMNH)
Sandra Raredon calls up onto her computer screen a digital X-ray of a longnose batfish. The creature, collected from the Gulf of Mexico, is a bizarre-looking thing. Its pointy nose and pectoral fins, which it used to crawl along the sandy sea floor, show up in detail in the X-ray. Curiously, so does its last meal. Raredon zooms in on the fish’s gut. “It actually ate a whole bunch of mollusks before it died,” she says. “You can even tell the genus of some of the shells.”
As a museum specialist in the National Museum of Natural History’s division of fishes, Raredon helps to maintain the largest fish collection in the world and she X-rays the specimens as part of the research. Forty of her digital X-rays, which are not only scientific records but dazzling works of art, are on display in “X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out,” at the National Museum of Natural History through August 5, 2012.