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Weird Animals - the Anglerfish

Updated on May 30, 2011

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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