These incredible alien-like creatures from the depths of the world’s oceans have been perfectly preserved by an expert taxidermist who has notched up over 65,000 followers by sharing his work online.
His photographs are also used for university lectures around the world and some of his work is on display in natural history museums, and some of the species he has worked on are so rare that he is the only one to have preserved them.
Jeroen, 48, from the Netherlands, spoke to Newsflash in an exclusive interview and said: “I have been fascinated by fish since early childhood.
“My father is a marine biologist and he had lots of books with the most amazing fish. I really enjoyed looking at all the photos and my father would tell me what kind of fish it was and how big it would get.
“When I found a dead fish he helped me preserve it as a wet specimen in alcohol. I tried to taxidermy my first fish, a small pike, when I was 8 years old, but this was not really successful…
“Many years later I decided to study the art of taxidermy properly. I found a taxidermist in my neighbourhood who was specialised in fish and he let me help him with his work in his studio.
“We worked together for a couple of years and he taught me all the trick of the trade. Now I can taxidermy my own fish and build my collection.”
He explained that he is “not trying to make the fish I preserve as life-like as possible, I want the fish to look really monstrous.”
Jeroen, who preferred not to disclose his surname, added: “I also do not use glass eyes, I preserve the original eyes and I try to keep as much of the original fish intact as possible.”
He also said that he had “found a technique to preserve most of the original skin colour, so I do not have to paint the entire fish, something which is usually done in fish taxidermy.”
Jeroen said that he decided to share his work on Instagram about a year and half ago, saying: “Now I have over 65,000 followers. I had no idea so many people would like what I do.”
He said: “I have always preferred fish with big nasty teeth, the scarier the better. Especially deep-sea fish like the Anglerfish and Fangtooth are among my favourites, but I also love river monsters like the goliath tigerfish and the Vampire fish.”
He said that one of the most interesting species that he had worked on was “a very large (45-centimetre) Deep Sea Anglerfish (Himantolophus groenlandicus). This is a species of anglerfish that lives at great depths (2,500 to 4,000 metres) and is almost impossible to catch.
“I got it from a research institute in Iceland who caught it during a deep sea research mission near Greenland. This species is so rare it was never even taxidermied before. This made it really exciting for me, to be the first taxidermist ever to preserve this species.
“It was a very difficult task because their skin is very delicate, but after 4 weeks of hard work I was able to taxidermy it properly.”
Discussing whether or not it was easier to work with mammals rather than fish, Jeroen, whose work is on display at various natural history museums in the Netherlands, said: “Most taxidermists say fish are the most difficult animals to preserve, but I have done only fish, so for me it difficult to compare fish to mammals.”
He said that the scariest creature he had worked on was a “Lamprey, a 120-centimetres-long bloodsucking leech as thick as a man’s arm.
“They are prehistoric creatures dating back way before the dinosaurs. Their mouth is full of razor sharp spikey teeth and they attach themselves to fish.
“It then uses its tongue (which also has many teeth on it!) to bore into the flesh of the fish and drink their blood. Sometimes they also attack humans…”
But he admitted that he did not fish the creatures himself, adding: “I have built up a large network of fishermen all over the world, from Guyana to Greenland.
“This took me many years. Especially acquiring deep sea fish was a real challenge. It took me years to find the right fishermen who do not only catch deep sea fish but were also willing to collect them for me.
“They have to look for them in their nets among thousands of other fish, so I have to pay them a very good price for their work. Then the fish have to be shipped to me frozen with special express delivery which is very expensive.”
His images on Instagram are so good that they are “often used for biology lectures at universities all over the world.” He added that there were often no good photograph available of deep sea fish and that his pictures were the only good ones teachers could use.
He said there was even one species that do not appear to have a name. He said: “I have preserved a yet unknown species of deep sea giant isopod (or maybe it is a flea). It was caught at great depths near Greenland by Norwegian fishermen.”