ANGLER FISH (Lophius piscatorius)
Photograph by Bruce Robison/Corbis
- Arguably the ugliest animal on the planet
- There are more than 200 species of anglerfish, most of which live up to a mile below the surface, although some live in shallow, tropical environments
- They have huge heads and enormous crescent-shaped mouths filled with sharp, translucent teeth.
- Some angler fish can be quite large, reaching 3.3 feet (1 meter) in length. Most however are significantly smaller, often less than a foot.
- Their most distinctive feature, worn only by females, is a piece of dorsal spine that protrudes above their mouths like a fishing pole—hence their name.
- Tipped with a lure of luminous flesh this built-in “rod” baits prey close enough to be snatched.
- Their mouths are so big and their bodies so pliable, they can actually swallow prey up to twice their own size.
- The male, is significantly smaller than the female (40x smaller)
- In lieu of continually seeking a female, the male is a permanent parasitic mate
- When he finds a female, he bites into her skin, and releases an enzyme that fuses the pair down to the blood-vessel level
- The male then slowly atrophies, first losing his digestive organs, then his brain, heart, and eyes, and ends as nothing more than a pair of gonads
- These gonads release sperm in response to hormones in the female’s bloodstream indicating egg release
- This extreme sexual dimorphism ensures that, when the female is ready to spawn, she has a mate immediately available
- A female will carry six or more males on her body