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ANGLERFISH

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 The familiar deep sea anglerfish is but one of the larger order of fishes called Lophiiformes, which are all distinguished by a modified dorsal spine that acts as a lure for catching prey.

Deep Sea Anglerfishes, known scientifically as the suborder Ceratiodei, are distinguished from the other Lophiiformes both by the extreme depth at which they live and by their unusual mating behavior. The toothy, nightmarish creatures that the word “anglerfish” conjures are the females of the species. Males are much smaller, relatively innocuous-looking fish that, upon finding a mate, will latch onto her and remain attached for the rest of their lifes. Often, the skin and arterial system of the male will merge with that of the female. This mode of life is a highly-efficient survival strategy since it means the animals don’t have to spend all their time looking for a mate in the massive, lightless depths.

Much is still unknown about the life habits of anglerfish since their deep sea home makes it difficult to observe them in the wild. Most of what is known is based off of (usually dead, often badly damaged) specimens taken in scientific trawls.

 I've also illustrated a larval female and a free-living male.  Click here and here to learn more about these aspects of anglerfish life.

I've also provided a brief description of the angler lure here.

In this illustration I’ve depicted at least one representative from each of the eleven Ceratiodei families.  Click on the names below to see each species up close.

PRICKLY SEADEVILS Centrophrynidae

WARTY SEADEVILS Ceratiidae

FOOTBALLFISH   Himantolophidae

DOUBLESPINE SEADEVILS  Diceratiidae

BLACK SEADEVILS   Melanocetidae

WOLFTRAP SEADEVILS  Thaumatichthyidae

DREAMERS  Oneirodidae

FANFIN SEADEVILS  Caulophrynidae

NEEDLEBEARDS  Neoceratiidae

WHIPNOSE SEADEVILS  Gigantactinidae

LEFTVENT SEADEVILS Linophrynidae

Information for this Anglerfish page was obtained from the definitive guide to these bizarre fish: 

Oceanic Anglerfishes: Extraordinary Diversity in the Deep Sea by Theodore W. Pietsch, available from Universit of California Press

It's even got a cover illustration by my artistic hero, Ray Troll!

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Anglerfish ©2010 John Meszaros.  All Rights Reserved.