The anglerfish is so called because of its method of predation. This is the fish that goes fishing. It has a long, modified dorsal fin spine sprouting from the middle of its head that ends in a fleshy growth that can move and wiggle to resemble another animal. In some deep sea anglerfish this deadly bait can even emit light (bioluminescence). Passing predators who think they've found an easy meal only need to touch the bait to find out they're the main course. Having been lured inside the anglerfish's wide mouth, the long pointed teeth snap shut and the creature is devoured whole. There are more than 300 species of anglerfish worldwide. They are found in open water and on the sea bed. Some of the bottom dwellers have modified fins that let them walk along the ocean floor.
Scientific name: Lophiiformes
Bioluminescence creates pyrotechnic displays deep in the ocean's darkness.
Bioluminescence creates pyrotechnic displays deep in the ocean's darkness. Shots courtesy of WHOI
Mating deep-sea angler fish form a lasting attachment.
Male angler fish are just a tenth of the size of the females. Their purpose in life is to find a mate somewhere in the darkness. The female releases a scent into the water which the males can detect. Once he's found a female, the male attaches himself permanently to the her with his teeth. Over the next few days the male fuses to the female, her blood circulating around him to keep him alive. The female then benefits from a constant supply of sperm, which would ordinarily be very difficult to find in the vastness of the deep ocean.
The following habitats are found across the Anglerfish distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.
Anglerfishes are members of the teleost order Lophiiformes /ˌlɒfiːəˈfɔrmiːz/. They are bony fishes named for their characteristic mode of predation, wherein a fleshy growth from the fish's head (the esca or illicium) acts as a lure; this is considered analogous to angling.
Some anglerfishes are pelagic (live in the open water), while others are benthic (bottom-dwelling). Some live in the deep sea (e.g., Ceratiidae) and others on the continental shelf (e.g., the frogfishes Antennariidae and the monkfish/goosefish Lophiidae). They occur worldwide. Pelagic forms are most laterally (sideways) compressed whereas the benthic forms are often extremely dorsoventrally compressed (depressed) often with large upward pointing mouths.
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