Fish of the Week – Deep sea Angler Fish

Welcome back for another first class edition of Fish of the Week. This weeks star possesses a face only its mother could love and plenty of references to ‘dangling members’. So with no further ado, I lay bare before you the deep sea Angler fish.

Many of you will have a picture of this fish in your head. It is grotesque to say the least. For those of you who haven’t here is 2008’s winner of ‘Aquatic best smile’.


The fish are named after their clever adaptation in order to feed which is one or more dangling filaments (illicium) protruding from the middle of the head that are modified spines from the anterior dorsal fin.

At the end of these spines is a irregular sized growth (esca). The illicium can move in every direction which causes the growth on the end to wiggle about not unlike prey. When an object touches the tentacle the jaws are triggered in a reflex reaction devouring it whole! Nom nom nom.

Some deep sea Anglers have an extra party trick. Bioluminescence gives them the edge when working in the dark gloomy depth of the ocean. This amazing feat is caused by a symbiosis with bacteria but the exact mechanism by which these are harnesses isn’t quite understood fully yet.

So what else has this fascinating fish got up its sleeve? Well reproduction my friends. Bare with me.

In the briny deep, its dark, vast and desolate. So understandably finding a mate is problematic to say the least. The deep see Angler fish has a unique way of bypassing this problem altogether.

The males sole purpose in life is to find a mate which is does by utilising its extremely well developed olfactory organs (e.g. its sense of smell).. Females are significantly larger than males, therefore hanging about with them will mean a higher likelihood of finding food.

Here’s where it gets a bit weird. Once he finds a female, he latches on with his teeth and produces an enzyme which dissolves the females skin and consequently his mouth which fuses them together to a degree where there blood vessels fuse as well. He then starts to waste away! Digestive system first (no need for it since he gets everything he needs from her blood) then brain and heart and eyes and ends up as nothing more than a pair of gonads which release sperm when triggered by a hormone circulated in the females blood. This means that when the females is ready to reproduce she has a mate immediately there ready with no endless search threw the gloom.

Female with atrophied males attached on underside.

Female readers will be thinking no doubt they know a few brainless, heartless pairs of gonads out there. All I can say I hope your not fused for life!

That pretty much ties a neat little bow on this one my friends.

Hope you enjoyed and as always, any request will be taken into consideration and almost definitely used 😉



3 responses to “Fish of the Week – Deep sea Angler Fish

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