Eerie Beauties of the Deep: The Anglerfish

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Today we continue our exploration of deep-sea life with a profile of the toothy beauty the Anglerfish. Like so many fish, mollusks, and jellies that have adapted to the pitch-black and heavy waters of the ocean’s depths, the Anglerfish defies the conventions of life elsewhere on earth: The female’s 40 times as big as the male.

Angler - center

Aka: Ceratiidae, or sea devil.

Depth: Up to 6,600′

An antenna-like growth from head of the Anglerfish acts as a lure. In the deep sea, the tip of this growth glows and wiggles, attracting prey.

But something else makes the deep-sea Anglerfish unique. From wikipedia:

Some anglerfish, like those of the Ceratioid group (Ceratiidae, or sea devils), employ an unusual mating method… When scientists first started capturing ceratioid anglerfish, they noticed that all of the specimens were female. These individuals were a few centimetres in size and almost all of them had what appeared to be parasites attached to them. It turned out that these “parasites” were highly reduced male ceratioids…

The male ceratioid lives solely to find and mate with a female… When he finds a female, he bites into her skin, and releases an enzyme that digests the skin of his mouth and her body, fusing the pair down to the blood-vessel level. The male becomes dependent on the female host for survival, receiving nutrients via their shared circulatory system, and provides sperm to the female in return. This extreme sexual dimorphism ensures that, when the female is ready to spawn, she has a mate immediately available.

Check out this National Geographic video for a more detailed explanation of this one-of-a-kind creature or, for a laugh, see the human equivalent of this mating behavior, courtesy of Animal Planet.

Anglerfish

Anglerfish

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