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‘Demonic’ fish with spikes of armor glows red in the eerie photo

The Pacific spiny lumpsucker is shining bright red under fluorescent lighting.

(Leo Smith/The University of Kansas)

The Pacific spiny lumpsucker is a funny-looking fish with a round body, sparkling eyes and a mouth agape. But under fluorescent lights it looks terrifying — “demonic” even.

That is the conclusion of Leo Smith, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at The University of Kansas, he researched different techniques to capture head-on images of the fish’s skeleton for a method paper. He plans to bring his findings to the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

“Inherently, it’s just like Cartman from South Park,'” Smith told Fox News, adding that one of his favorite fish. “They are really cute. They are fun. These guys are best known for their pelvic sucking discs, so that they can hold things like small stones.”

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He is stripped of the creature to its skeleton and cartilage, dipping the fish in the cow-stomach enzymes to get rid of the muscle, colored body with colorful paint and then packed in gelatin, and glycerin — “relatively cheap and gooey to the touch.” This allowed him to see the blob-like fish and the weapon of armor clearly.

“It was flabby, like a character in ‘Scooby Doo.’ When you get to the skeleton from the landfill,” says Smith, who explains that he had to keep the figure still in the gelatin for at least an hour until it is dry.

Once the enclosure was ready, the Smith turned on fluroescent lighting and placing the ping-pong-ball-sized figure under a micropsope. He snapped a lot of pictures of spikey fish glow in the dark visible empty eye sockets. The lighting, he said, really helped capture the lumpsucker, the boney spikes called “tubercles.”

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“She can’t swim, away from it all.They have a spiky build with spikes like small thumb tacks. Bite down on them would be really obnoxious,” Smith said, comparing them to porcupines.

A view of the Pacific spiny lumpsucker in white light.

(Leo Smith/The University of Kansas)

Smith said that his research could help others in a good position to capture head-on views of the fish and reptiles. He compared the case with the gelatin to metal frames archaeologists use to view the dinosaurs.

“We have tried to do this for a long time,” he said. “This allows us to pose certain kinds of beings to reenact natural positions, we could not do that.”

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Smith has been studying marine life for more than 23 years.

A look at the inside of the Pacific spiny lumpfish’s mouth.

(Leo Smith/The University of Kansas)

He grew up in the mountains of New Mexico and was a star football player in high school. But a heart condition left him not to continue his sporting career, so he found another hobby: fishing.

His father brought home fish on a day after a visit to the doctor and he was responsible for taking care of them. Eventually he would like to volunteer at a local aquariuam, where he determined he wanted a “fish guy.”

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“It kind of snowballed,” Smith said. “By the time I graduated, I had about 13 or 14 [fish] tanks.”

He then went on to study at the University of California, San Diego, examination of the specimens that are hundreds of years old. Now he spends his time teaching and performing research projects.

“All the fish are different. There are various aspects to study,” Smith said. “I think it’s a funny, weird”properties.”

They are easier to study if they already are dead, Smith said, pointing to his most recent project of the lumpfish.

“If she’s dead, you can stop projects and start all over,” he added. “You don’t need to try in order to maintain life.”

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