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Anglerfish (Lophiiformes)

Anglerfish are found deep in the Antarctic and Atlantic oceans. The females can get up to 3.3 feet; whereas, the males are only a couple of inches long. In many species, the females have a fleshy growth on their heads that they use to lure fish close enough for them to capture and swallow. They can eat prey twice as large as their own bodies and have dozens of sharp teeth to hold onto their meal.

Deep-sea Anglerfish Melanocoetus sp
Deep-sea Anglerfish Melanocoetus sp (Wikipedia, 2010)

For a long time, scientists didn’t know what male anglers looked like. They were actually hidden in plain sight. You see, they attach themselves to the female and it appears as if they are part of female Angler's anatomy. The male angler is extremely small compared to the female (this is called sexual dimorphism).


Swimming down and catching a meal isn’t their forte’; but, finding a female angler is what they do best. Some male angler species swim around in the deep waters and find a female by homing in on her pheromones. If they manage to locate a female, they bite into her flesh and eventually fuses its mouth with her body. The male remains attached drawing all of its blood and nutrients from the female's body. Why does the male do this? Well, the male’s only purpose is to provide sperm to fertilize the female’s eggs. In some species, up to 8 males have been found dangling from the female’s body.

Males attached to female anglerfish. Source: Cosmos Magazine
Males attached to female anglerfish. Source: Cosmos Magazine

Over time, the male angler is fully absorbed into the body of the female. Nothing but the gonads and a piece of the tail remain visible. Wicked evolution.

If you saw Finding Nemo, you may have seen a Deep Sea Angler! Yes, she was a girl. 🙂

Finding Nemo: Pixar Animation (2003)
Finding Nemo: Pixar Animation (2003)

Please enjoy this video below featuring the Melanocetus species:

Video Footage: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

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