The gelatinous snailfish, together with the kelp
snailfish, occurs further north than other members of the snailfish family. Because
of their northern range, and lack of commercial importance, little is known about
the biology of these fish. Like other snailfishes, they have a sucking disc-shaped
mouth, adapted for sucking up various invertebrates such as crustaceans and marine
worms off the bottom. Although they are of little importance for human consumption,
they are an important food source for other, predatory fishes.
The gelatinous snailfish has a tadpole-like shape,
with a large head and tapering body. Its head is short, with large eyes and a
slightly protruding upper jaw. One large, continuous dorsal fin extends the length
of its back and overlaps with the rounded caudal fin. The anal fin is long, well
developed, and also overlaps the caudal fin. The pectoral fins are large and fan-like,
while the pelvic fins are modified into an adhesive disc. Their bodies are scaleless,
but males develop bumps on their head and body when sexually mature. Small individuals
have a uniform brown colour, with small dark spots on the tail, but as they grow
towards their maximum size of 17 cm, their colouring becomes darker. Pigment cells
under the outer skin of the fish are visible as speckling, especially in the younger
individuals, which lack skin colour. The speckling increases in density as they
grow, until the fish is almost totally black. The dark mouth and inner gill cover
is a useful characteristic in distinguishing this snailfish from other species
in the Arctic.
The gelatinous snailfish occurs in the Arctic seas of Greenland, Canada, Alaska,
Iceland, Europe and the former USSR. In the Canadian Arctic, this fish occurs
from the far north of Ellesmere Island south to the tip of Labrador. This fish
roams the open water, as well as the ocean bottom in search of food, but prefers
the mid depths of 50 to 100 m deep, often over muddy bottoms.
The reproduction of these fish has not been studied
and little is known about their habits, except that they spawn in September and
October and produce small eggs that measure 2.5 mm in diameter.