The voracious sea creature pictured atop this post is neither frightening nor notorious, as far as people are concerned.
Behold the northern anchovy, commonly used as bait and savored by millions as a pizza topping.
Almost nobody considers the anchovy to be any type of predator.
But this week Ryan Lawler, a Southern California captain and angler, used his camera to portray the tiny fish as the vicious beast it most certainly represents in the eyes of tiny, shrimp-like krill.
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"The table is set for blue whales! Krill, krill, krill," Lawler posted this week on a private whale-themed Facebook page. "I went fishing today near the offshore oil rigs between Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach. But I think I had more fun taking pictures of the krill than I did catching fish.
"I present the Pacific ocean’s most fearsome predator: the northern anchovy (who knew??)"
They're rare images because krill patches typically remain below the surface during the day, and when they do rise they’re often assaulted by much larger predators, such as whales. And when whales are present, nobody is photographing anchovies.
The importance of krill cannot be understated. The tiny crustaceans represent "the fuel that runs the engine of Earth's marine ecosystems," according to National Geographic.
Hundreds of creatures, including birds, regard krill as a staple. Blue whales, the planet’s largest inhabitants, feed almost exclusively on krill, and a single blue whale can devour up to four tons of krill per day.
But on this day, on this particular krill patch, the moment belonged to anchovies.
However, Lawler said, as he was heading to port in Newport Beach, two humpback whales appeared in the vicinity.
Not a good sign for the mighty little fish, because humpback whales love to devour anchovies, and also prey on krill.
Lawler said he did not stick around to see how this story ended.
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