Weird Animals - the Anglerfish

Unbelievably bizarre and wonderfully weird

I may not be a beauty but 6 males will follow me anywhere.
I may not be a beauty but 6 males will follow me anywhere.

Did you ever hear that old, corny pun? What lies at the bottom of the sea and shakes? Answer: a nervous wreck.

Well, the intimidating-looking anglerfish lives at the bottom of the sea and if you ever encountered it in person, you might be the wreck who was shaking. Scary and bizarre-looking, the deep sea anglerfish (Melanocetus johnsoni) makes its home in the darkened depths of the Atlantic and AntarcticOceans.

There are more than 200 species of anglerfish and most of them dwell up to a mile below the surface of the ocean. At this depth, there is almost no light and the water is near freezing. Anglerfish are usually dark gray, dark brown or black in color with round bodies, disproportionately huge heads, tiny eyes, and enormous crescent-shaped mouths filled with scary, sharp, translucent teeth that look like fangs. The mouth of the anglerfish is so big and its body so flexible, it can extend both its jaw and stomach to an incredible size which allows it to swallow prey up to twice its own size.

Because of its grotesque appearance, the anglerfish has earned the nickname, black devil. Some anglerfish grow up to 3.3 feet in length. But most are smaller, less than one foot. Because of its wide, round, pliable body, anglerfish do not swim with ease like other deep sea dwellers. As it moves, it looks something like a basketball wobbling through the ocean.

Watch the incredible Anglerfish catch another fish with its built-in Fishing Rod!

The weird female anglerfish has a built-in fishing rod.

I know this may sound like science fiction but the deep sea anglerfish has a built-in fishing rod with a lure that looks like a wiggling, small worm on the top of its head. Only the females possess this unusual and distinctive feature which is an elongated growth of dorsal spine that protrudes above the mouth just like a fishing pole.

That’s not all. This built-in fishing rod is tipped with a glowing lure of luminous flesh that attracts its prey close enough to be swallowed. How does the anglerfish light its glowing lure? It doesn’t, really. Scientists speculate that specialized light-producing bacteria live inside the lure.

This illuminated spine is highly maneuverable and can be moved in any direction. The anglerfish will usually remain completely motionless and partially buried on the sea floor, waving its lure back and forth just like a fishing pole. Its jelly-like skin reflects blue light so it is virtually invisible to other fish. When its prey (tiny fish) gets close enough, the anglerfish snaps it up with its powerful jaws and swallows it whole. The sharp teeth of the angler are angled inwards, which helps prevent its prey from escaping.

The weird male anglerfish is a parasite.

The male anglerfish is tiny compared to the female – about the size of a small finger and black in color. If you think the female anglerfish is weird with her built-in illuminated fishing pole, wait until you read about the male anglerfish. It has evolved into a permanent parasitic mate. When a male matures, its digestive system degenerates, making it impossible for it to feed on its own. Now it has to find a female or die of starvation. Is that how we got the expression, “poor fish?”

When it encounters a suitable female, the male attaches itself with its sharp, hooked teeth. When he bites into her skin, he releases an enzyme that dissolves the skin of his mouth and that of her body. Over time the two become fused together and their blood vessels join as one. The male loses his eyes and all his internal organs except the testes. The male will spend the rest of his life attached to the female like a parasite, getting all his nourishment from her body. A female anglerfish can carry up to six males on her body at a time.


Weird method of reproduction

When the female is ready to spawn, she has a mate instantly available – any one of the up to six male parasites she carries around with her at all times. The female will lay her eggs in a thin sheet of gelatinous material two or three feet wide and about thirty feet long.

This thin sheet of eggs floats free in the sea until the eggs hatch into tiny larvae. Once hatched, the larvae swim to the surface and feed on plankton. As they mature, they return to the depths below.

Many species of anglerfish are fished commercially throughout the world. Although the anglerfish is extremely ugly, its flesh is low-fat and firm-textured with a mild, sweet flavor similar to lobster.

In Japan, anglerfish is considered a delicacy and you pay a premium price for it in the fish markets. In various parts of the world, the anglerfish is also known as monkfish, bellyfish, frogfish, goosefish, or sea devil.

Do you collect trivia? Here is Fish Trivia: What fish has been nicknamed "Frankenfish"? The walking catfish (Clarias batrachus) caused a panic among fish farmers in Florida when it began invading aquaculture fish farms and feeding on the fish.

The media named it Frankenfish. The walking catfish breathes air and is capable of walking short distances on land. When their food supply is exhausted, they simply start marching like an army (sometimes thousands at a time) to the nearest food supply.

© Copyright BJ Rakow Ph.D. 2010, 2011. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search just Ain't So."

Readers of my book say they learned to write a dynamic resume and cover letter, network effectively, interview professionally and negotiate assertively. Includes a chapter for older workers.

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Comments 31 comments

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

I can't believe that I'm the first to comment on this well-written hub! I've heard about this fish before, but really didn't know about all of its exceptional traits until now (like its mating habits!). Well done.

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, dohn. I do appreciate your visit.

I'm fascinating by this weird creature because it is so strange and largely unknown by many people.

But now we have something in common - we've discovered it. Thanks for the "well-done."

Varenya profile image

Varenya 6 years ago

I didn't know before this very weird fish, it is absolutely fantastic learn about these strange and marvelous animals!!! The oceans are still full of such creatures, really amazing!!! Many thanks for such a great job!

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Varenya, how nice to meet you. Thanks you for the kind comments. It's my pleasure to write about weird animals because I am always amazed at their variety and abilities.

As you pointed out, the oceans may be full of many more strange animals we have not yet discovered.

nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

And the built-in fishing rod just evolved that way? ;)

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, nicomp. Thanks for the visit.

Yes, the built-in fishing pole complete with wiggling, luminous lure just "growed that way." Pretty clever of ole Mother Nature, no?

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

What fun - reading all about the interesting facts of the anglerfish! An awesome image. You are a living book of knowledge. Excellent presentation here. I am amazed at the built-in fishing rod. I think I have one of those.

(fishing for the male species) :-)

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Delighted you discovered the Anglerfish, Audrey. He, er ... she, er ... it is one of my favorite weird animals (fish). Never needs to buy bait.

Thanks for the gracious comments - they make the research worthwhile.

BTW - with your 'attributes', dunno that you need a built-in fishing rod. :)

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Hahahaha.....oh, thank you. (blushing).

Angler Fish 5 years ago

I never would have thought creatures like this would do that.

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

You are spot-on, Angler Fish. I was as surprised as you when I discovered the Anglerfish (any relation?) Mother Nature really went out of her way when she created this remarkable creature.

habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia

Have you ever eaten monkfish? It tastes like lobster and is just as expensive - maybe more. Really interesting hub. Voted up!

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Holle, thanks for visiting. Yes, I once ate monkfish in Japan and it was very tasty. My host suggested that choice and you are absolutely correct - it does taste like very tender lobster.

Happy you found this interesting and voted up.

SilverGenes 5 years ago

Well now, this was truly entertaining and enlightening at the same time. I will restrain myself from all gender-based humour though I am bursting right now. The video was set up just like a horror film... suspense and wham! I am just as fascinated how we as a species are compelled to eat things based on their interesting and rare qualities. Loved this article! Thank you!

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Yay! Entertaining and enlightening - that's exactly what I aim for. Thank you, Alexandra, for recogniing that. Feel free at any time to express your gender-based humor although I believe I know almost precisely what you might say. Another yay!

I guess that video was like a horror film, at least to any of that poor fish's relatives. Thank you for loving this article. My pleasure entirely.

wanzulfikri profile image

wanzulfikri 5 years ago from Malaysia

This hub is really interesting. I never thought that the anglerfish mate that way.

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, wanzulfikri, thanks for finding the anglerfish. It really is weird and its strange mating ritual is very unique even for fish.

LuvableSweetheart 5 years ago

the angler fish is one of my favorite deep sea creatures :)

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Luvable, love your name. We have a lot in common, my dear. The anglerfish is one of my favorite weird deep sea cratures, too. Together with the blobfish. Take a look at "Weird Animals - the Blobfish" and tell me if you agree.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

So very interesting ;I learnt so much and have to award that up up and away for this one.

This is what I love about HubPages;we don't know what we will be reading next.

Take care and enjoy your weekend.


LuvableSweetheart 4 years ago

I looked at your Blobfish...there another weird animal that I love. I also like the viper fish. Their fascinating animals. Keep writing. :)

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Nice to see you here, Eddy. The Anglerfish says hi, too. Delighted you found this as interesting as I did. And you are so right about Hubpage. One never knows what one will encounter next. Thanks for the visit and for the Up, m'luv.

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Luvable, nice to meet you. I know if you liked the Blobfish you woul love the Anglerfish. Take a look at the other weird animals listed in the links at the end of the hub. I think you will enjoy reading about them, too.

tle45 4 years ago

I was on vacation at Ft Walton Florida near Destin. While walking on the beach at daybreak one morning we found a fish washed up that looked like it had it head stomped(imprint on head). After turning the fish over it was an attachment to its head. I have looking to identify this fish. Can you help me? I do have pictures of it.

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Nice to meet you, tle45. To identify a strange or unknown fish, here is a source I suggest: Take a photo of the fish in question and send it in an email together with its approximate size, where you found it, and any other details available. Good luck!

rob 3 years ago

how long does the male"live" and what happens at his demise

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, rob. Thanks for the visit and the question. The male anglerfish lives like a blind parasite attached to the female anglerfish. Generally, he will live as long as she does.

asdfjkl; 3 years ago

thank you! i need this info for my project!

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida Author

Nice to meet you, asdfjkl - you're welcome. Good luck with your project.

a really long name that is long... 3 years ago

what does its diet consist of?

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida Author

What an interesting non-name. To answer your question, the female anglerfish eats tiny fish. The male gets his nourishment by living off the female.

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