Monkfish is a bright representative of the inhabitants of the seabed. This interesting fish is difficult to study, since most of its subspecies rarely surface, and the high pressure makes it difficult to observe them on the ocean floor. However, anglers have even become popular as delicacy fish.
Origin and description
The monkfish or anglerfish is a predatory fish from the anglerfish order. The creature got its name for its unsightly appearance. This is a large order, which includes 5 suborders, 18 families, 78 genera and approximately 358 species. Species are similar to each other morphologically and in lifestyle, so the number is inaccurate and there are disputes about individual representatives.
Monkeys are classified as ceratiform fish. These fish are distinguished, first of all, by their way of life – they live at a depth where most known marine life is not able to live due to the enormous pressure. This depth can reach 5 thousand meters, which complicates the study of these fish.
The anglerfish are also united by the following features:
- camouflage color – black, dark brown without spots and other drawings;
- on the sides of the fish are slightly flattened, although in general they have a teardrop shape;
- often the skin is covered with naturally formed plaques and growths;
- a characteristic process on the forehead – a “fishing rod” (only in females). With its help, anglers catch fish that mistook the offshoot for prey, so they swim up to the predator;
- females are always much larger than males;
- anglerfish have a row of long teeth designed only for grasping prey – in fact, the teeth are quite fragile, so they cannot chew or bite monkfish.
Traditionally, the following common types of monkfish are distinguished:
- American anglerfish;
- Black-bellied anglerfish;
- European anglerfish;
- Caspian and South African anglerfish;
- Far Eastern monkfish and Japanese anglerfish.
Appearance and Features
Angelfish are different from each other depending on the feat. The common European monkfish is a game fish, — can grow up to two meters in length, but usually individuals have a length of no more than one and a half meters. Weight can reach up to 60 kg.
This fish is covered with protective mucus and does not have scales. Numerous skin growths and keratinized areas of the skin allow it to disguise itself as the topography of the seabed. According to the shape of the body in the natural habitat, the fish resemble a flounder – they are maximally flattened from the sides. Their mobile skull with a massive jaw is the single most prominent part while the fish hides against the background of the bottom.
When the fish rises to the surface or is caught due to the decrease in pressure, it swells up, acquiring a teardrop shape. Her skull straightens, her eyes seem to roll out, her lower jaw moves forward, which makes her appearance even more intimidating.
The dorsal fin of the monkfish is deformed and is a process with a seal at the end – a “fishing rod”. With it, anglerfish maintain their status as formidable deep-sea hunters.
Fun fact: The anglerfish’s offshoot does indeed glow. This is due to glands with bioluminescent bacteria.
Anglerfish vary greatly in appearance depending on gender. It is the females that look the way described above, and it is the females that are caught commercially. The male anglerfish is fundamentally different from it: the maximum length of its body reaches 4 cm, and in shape it resembles a tadpole.
Where does the monkfish live?
Udilshchikov can be found in the following habitats:
- Atlantic Ocean;
- European coast;
- Barents Sea;
- Gulf of Guinea;
- Black Sea;
- North Sea;
- English Channel;
- Baltic Sea.
Depending on the species, they can live at a depth of both 18 m and 5 thousand meters. The largest species of anglerfish (European) prefer to settle at the very bottom of the ocean, where the sun’s rays do not fall.
There, the anglerfish becomes the only source of light that small fish peck at. Anglerfish lead a sedentary lifestyle and mostly lie at the bottom, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. They don’t build any escape, they don’t choose their permanent habitat.
Anglers don’t like to swim. Some subspecies of monkfish have dense lateral fins that rest against the bottom when the fish is lying down. Scientists believe that with the help of these fins, the fish, as it were, “walks” along the bottom, pushing itself with the movements of the tail.
The lifestyle of anglers is justified by the fact that with small prey and high pressure, they need to maintain a stable body weight in order to comfortably exist in such an unfriendly environment. Therefore, monkfish are focused on maximum energy conservation, therefore they settle in places where you need to move less and, moreover, hide less from predators and other dangers.
Now you know where the monkfish is found. Let’s see what he eats.
What does the monkfish eat?
Monkfish females have a characteristic hunting pattern. They merge with the seabed with the help of a camouflage color and numerous skin growths that mimic the relief. The appendix on their head glows with a pale green light that attracts small fish. When a fish swims close to the light, the angler begins to lead it to its mouth. Then he makes a sharp jerk, swallowing the prey whole.
Interesting fact: The structure of the anglerfish’s jaw allows it to eat prey that reaches the size of the anglerfish itself.
Sometimes monkfish can make long jerks and even bounce on the bottom, pulling themselves up to the victim. He does this with the help of lateral fins, which rests on the bottom while he lies.
The daily diet of the anglerfish includes:
- various fish – usually cod, gerbils;
- cephalopods: octopus, squid, cuttlefish;
- clams, crayfish, lobsters;
- small sharks;
- closer to the surface, anglers prey on herring and mackerel;
- monkfish can attack seagulls and other medium-sized birds floating on the waves.
Sea devils cannot match the size of prey with their own strength; instincts do not allow them to let go of the victim, even if it does not fit in the mouth. Therefore, holding the caught prey in its teeth, the angler will try to eat it for as long as it takes.
Often, collisions with squids and octopuses are deplorable for anglers, since these creatures are superior to fish in intelligence and are able to dodge his attacks.
Interesting fact: When the anglerfish opens its mouth, it creates a small whirlpool that draws the victim into the anglerfish’s mouth along with the flow of water.
Features character and lifestyle
Anglerfish lead a quiet life. All their activities are focused on hunting and eating caught food, occasionally they can move along the bottom, looking for a new place for an ambush.
Some species of anglerfish live at shallow depths, while deep-sea ones occasionally rise to the surface. There are cases when large anglers floated on the surface of the water, colliding with boats and fishermen.
Sea devils live alone. Females are aggressively set against each other, so cannibalism is not uncommon, when a larger individual attacks and eats a smaller one. Therefore, anglers are territorial fish that rarely go beyond their borders.
For humans, sea devils do not pose a danger, since the largest species live at the bottom of the ocean. They can bite a scuba diver, but will not cause serious damage, because their jaws are weak and their sparse teeth are fragile. Anglerfish are aimed at swallowing prey, but they are not able to swallow a person.
Interesting fact: In some species of monkfish, the “rod” — not a deformed dorsal fin, but a process right in the mouth.
Male monkfish are not adapted to independent life. They often become food for other deep-sea fish, while they themselves are able to eat only small fish and plankton.
Social structure and reproduction
Male anglerfish are capable of breeding at different times. Some species – immediately after exiting the tadpole form; male European anglerfish can only breed at the age of 14 years. Females reach sexual maturity, usually at 6 years of age.
European anglerfish have a spawning period, but the deepest sea species do not spawn at all. The largest species of males fertilize the eggs already laid out by the female at the spawning site – the eggs are adhesive tapes that are located in secluded places. Fish do not look after their future offspring and leave them to their fate.
Deep-sea anglerfish reproduce in a different way. Their whole life as a male is a search for a female. They look for her by the pheromones that are released at the end of her dorsal fin. When a female is found, the male monkfish must swim up to her from behind or from the back – so that she does not notice him. Females are illegible in food, so they can eat the male. If the male was able to swim up to the female, then he clings to her body with small teeth and clings tightly to her. A few days later, the male fuses with the body of the female, becoming her parasite. She gives him nutrients, and he constantly fertilizes her.
An interesting fact: Any number of males can join a female’s body.
After a while, the male finally fuses with her, turning into a tubercle. He does not cause inconvenience to the female. About once a year, she spawns already fertilized eggs and swims away from the clutch. If she accidentally stumbles upon her clutch again, then there is a high probability that she will eat her future offspring.
The genetic potential of males is not unlimited, therefore, in the end, they turn into a keratinized growth on the body of the female, finally ceasing to exist. The fry that emerged from the eggs first float to the surface, where they drift along with plankton – they feed on it. Then, leaving the form of a tadpole, they descend to the bottom and lead a habitual way of life for sea devils. In total, monkfish live for about 20 years, some species live up to 14-15 years.
Monkfish natural enemies
Due to their gluttony and low intelligence, monkfish often attack prey that they are unable to cope with. But in general, it is not of interest to marine predators, therefore it is more of an accidental prey than a targeted object of hunting.
Most often, monkfish are attacked by:
- squid. Sometimes anglers were found in the stomachs of colossal squids;
- large octopuses;
- large dragon fish;
- sackfish can easily swallow even a large anglerfish;
- giant isopods eat baby monkfish;
- goblin shark;
- a clam called “hell vampire”.
Usually, the population of monkfish suffers losses in the state of eggs or tadpoles. Surface-dwelling tadpoles are eaten by whales and plankton-eating fish.
In general, monkfish have no natural predators for a number of reasons:
- they are excellent camouflage;
- have no nutritional value for many fish and marine life;
- live too deep;
- they are at the top of the food chain in their natural habitat – at the bottom.
Population and species status
The European monkfish is a commercial fish, which is caught annually in sizes up to about 30 thousand tons. To catch these fish, special deep-sea nets and bottom longlines are used. This fishery is most developed in England and France.
Anglerfish are the so-called “tail” fish, that is, all their meat is concentrated in the tail area. It tastes great and is very nutritious.
The American anglerfish is on the verge of extinction due to extensive fishing – it does not live at the bottom of the ocean and often floats to the surface, which makes it an easy prey. Therefore, in England, the trade in monkfish meat is prohibited by Greenpeace, although fishing is still ongoing.
Due to their long life cycles, sea devils have firmly established themselves in the food chain of deep-sea creatures. But due to the characteristics of their lifestyle, anglers cannot be bred at home, which also makes them difficult to study.
Interesting fact: Monkfish meat is considered a delicacy. It is sold very expensive, it is rarely found on store shelves; restaurants serve it fully baked, but only the tail is eaten.
Due to their deep-sea and sedentary lifestyle, the population of monkfish is difficult to estimate. Scientists believe that the European anglerfish and many other species of monkfish are not in danger of extinction.
Monkfish are unique and little-studied creatures. So far, their study is difficult, and there are ongoing disputes about the classification of subspecies. Deep-sea fish hide many more secrets that are yet to be revealed over time.