Larval fish are the freakiest baby animals on the planet

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EcoWatch

Fish are weird, beautiful, alien things.

They move through Earth’s streams, lakes, and oceans, displaying an astonishing range of colorations, forms, and lifestyles.

They also share some striking similarities to Pokemon. Hear me out – just about every fish starts off looking almost nothing like it will as an adult. Those baby, larval swimmers can be almost totally transparent or so tiny that it’s hard to believe they’re related to their adult forms.

Here are eight particularly bizarre (and beautiful) examples.


A ‘leptocephalus,’ or larval eel, looks like a clear plastic ribbon. Below is a conger eel.

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Leptocephalus larva of a conger eel
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Wikimedia commons

Here’s what the conger eel looks like as an adult

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NOAA Photo Library

The baby moray eel is even more dramatic-looking.

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Leptocephalus larva of a conger eel
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Wikimedia commons

Here’s what an adult moray looks like.

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Wikimedia commons

Swordfish larvae look like bizarre tiny cartoons of their future selves.

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Marine biologist Juan C, Levesque

The adults, meanwhile, are giant, sharp-nosed behemoths.

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L. Mahin CC BY 3.0

Black dragonfish larvae look like freaky worms with glowing eyes.

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Carole Baldwin. http://www.mnh.si.edu/expeditions/galapagos/larval-dragonfish.htm

As an adult, those eye stalks disappear and the dragonfish winds up looking like, well, a dragon.

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GM. Woodward – Fishes, Public Domain

A larval lionfish is actually pretty normal-looking, all things considered…

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NOAA

…until you realize what it turns into as an adult.

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Jens Petersen/Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY 2.5

Salmon larvae look almost like tadpoles.

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E. Peter Steenstra/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region

Here’s the much more familiar look of an Atlantic salmon as an adult

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Shutterstock

Ocean Sunfish, or Mola Mola, grow to become the heaviest bony fish in the world. But when they hatch, they’re barely more than 2 millimeters long (and even more sun-like).

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G. David Johnson

Check out what that tiny thing grows into.


Not all fish start out looking so weird, though. When great white shark babies, known as pups, are born (not hatched), they are fairly large and look a lot like they will as adults. This video excerpt shows a juvenile great white during a tagging mission.

(Full video)