Anglerfish is an unusual deep-sea creature, reminiscent of monsters from a fairy tale. Amazing and different from others. All external features are adapted to live under a huge column of water, in dark and impenetrable depths. Let’s try to study in more detail their mysterious fish life, focusing not only on appearance, but also on characteristic habits, disposition, methods of reproduction and food preferences.
Origin of the species and description
Anglerfish are also called monkfish, they belong to the suborder of deep-sea ray-finned fish, to the order of anglerfish. The kingdom of these fish is located at great ocean depths. Scientists believe that the appearance of the very first anglerfish on Earth occurred more than 100 million years ago. Despite this, these amazing fish are still very poorly understood, apparently because of their deep-sea existence.
In general, all anglerfish are distinguished by extraordinary and strange external features, necessary for fish to live at great depths. The main difference between anglers is their modified dorsal fin, which hangs close to the fish’s mouth and resembles a rod, at the end of which there is a bait (eska). Such an unusual fishing rod is called an illitium, because of its presence of fish, they were called anglers.
An interesting fact: Among the anglers, only females have a fishing rod.
All anglers are divided into 11 families, which consist of more than 120 species of fish. Different species differ not only in places of permanent deployment, but also in size, weight, and some external features.
Among the varieties are:
- black-bellied (South European) anglerfish;
- Far Eastern anglerfish;
- American anglerfish;
- European anglerfish;
- West Atlantic anglerfish;
- Cape anglerfish;
- South African anglerfish
Fishing rods in females have a different structure, shape and size, it all depends on the type of fish. A variety of skin growths are possible on illicias. In some anglers, they have the ability to fold and move apart with the help of a special channel on the ridge. The shimmering esca is a gland filled with mucus containing bioluminescent bacteria. The fish itself causes the glow or stops it, expanding and constricting the vessels. The light and flashes from the bait are different and for each species of fish are individual.
Appearance and features
As already noted, the female differs from the male in the presence of a special rod used to attract prey. But the gender differences do not end there, male and female anglerfish are so different that scientists used to classify them as different species. Male and female fish vary greatly in size.
Females compared to their gentlemen are just giants. The dimensions of females can vary from 5 cm to two meters, the mass can reach up to 57 kg, and the length of males does not exceed 5 cm. These are the colossal differences in the parameters! Another sexual dimorphism lies in the fact that miniature gentlemen have excellent eyesight and smell, which they need to find a partner.
The sizes of anglerfish differ in different species, we will describe some of them. The length of the body of the European anglerfish can reach up to two meters in length, but, on average, it does not exceed one and a half meters. The largest mass of such a large fish ranges from 55 to 57.7 kg. The body of the fish is devoid of scales, it is replaced by many leathery growths and tubercles. The physique of the fish is flattened, compressed from the ridge and abdomen. The eyes are small, rather far apart. The fish spine has a brown or greenish-brown hue, a reddish tone is also found, dark spots may be present on the body.
The length of the American anglerfish ranges from 90 to 120 cm, and its weight is about 23 kg. The dimensions of the black-bellied anglerfish vary from half a meter to a meter. The length of the West Atlantic anglerfish does not go beyond 60 cm. The Cape monkfish has a huge head, which is noticeably flattened, the tail of the fish is not long. In length, this fish usually does not go beyond a meter mark.
The Far Eastern anglerfish grows up to one and a half meters, its head section is very wide and flattened. The large mouth and the protruding lower jaw, which is equipped with one or two rows of sharp teeth, are immediately noticeable. The fins located on the chest are wide enough and have a fleshy blade. From above, the fish is painted in brown tones with spots of a lighter shade, which are framed by a dark border. The belly has a lighter shade.
Interesting fact: Sea devils move along the bottom surface with the help of jumps that they can make thanks to their strong pectoral fins.
In general, anglers are just masters of disguise, they completely merge with the bottom, becoming almost indistinguishable from the ground. All sorts of bumps and growths on their body contribute to this. On both sides of the head, anglerfish have skin in the form of a fringe, which also runs along the jaw, above the fish lips. Outwardly, this fringe is similar to algae swaying in the water column, because of this, the fish is even more disguised as its surroundings.
An interesting fact: An angler fish caught from the depths looks completely different than at the bottom. He becomes bloated, and his eyes seem to go out of their sockets, it’s all about excess pressure, which reaches 300 atmospheres at depth.
Where does the angler live?
Anglerfish inhabit great depths ranging from one and a half to three and a half kilometers. They have long adapted to the darkness and overpressure in the ocean waters. The black-bellied monkfish lives in the eastern part of the Atlantic Ocean, having chosen the space from Senegal to the islands of Britain.
This anglerfish lives in the waters of the Black and Mediterranean seas. It is clear from the name that the Western Atlantic anglerfish was registered in the western part of the Atlantic, living at depths from 40 to 700 meters.
The American anglerfish inhabited the Atlantic coast of the North American continent, it is based in the northwestern part of the Atlantic at a depth of 650 to 670 meters. The European monkfish has also taken a fancy to the Atlantic, only it is deployed not far from the European coast, the area of its settlement extends from the expanses of the Barents Sea and Iceland to the Gulf of Guinea, the fish also lives in the Black, Baltic and North Seas.
The Far Eastern anglerfish likes the Sea of Japan, it lives along the coastal zone of Korea, in Peter the Great Bay, not far from the island of Honshu. Now you know where the angler is found. Let’s see what this deep sea fish eats.
What does the anglerfish eat?
Sea devils are predators whose menu is mainly fish. Deep-sea fish can become a snack for the anglerfish, which stubbornly waits for them in ambush.
Such fish include:
- Hatchetfish or Hatchetfish;
In the stomachs of caught anglerfish, gerbils, small rays, cod, eels, small sharks, and flounder were found. Species living not so deep prey on herring and mackerel. There is evidence that anglers attacked small waterfowl. They eat crustaceans and cephalopods, including cuttlefish and squid. Small males eat copepods and chaetognaths.
The hunting process of monkfish is a very exciting sight. Hiding and disguising itself at the bottom, the fish illuminates its bait (esca), located at the end of the rod, it starts to play with it, making movements similar to the swimming of a small fish. The female does not take patience, she steadfastly waits for prey. The angler sucks the victim of a small size into itself with lightning speed. It also happens that the fish have to make an attack, which is carried out in a jump. The jump is possible thanks to powerful repulsive pectoral fins or the release of a water jet through the gills.
Fun fact: When a large fish mouth opens, something like a vacuum is formed, so prey along with the flow of water rapidly sucked into the anglerfish’s mouth.
Gluttony of anglers often plays a cruel joke with them. The stomach of females has the ability to stretch very strongly, so their prey can be three times larger than the fish itself. The angler chokes on such large-sized prey, but is not able to spit it out, because. The fish’s teeth look inward, so it suffocates and dies.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Little is known about the nature and life of sea devils; in this regard, they are still little studied. These enigmatic deep-sea creatures are shrouded in mystery. Scientists have found that a large female sees almost nothing and has a weak sense of smell, while males, on the contrary, vigilantly look out for a partner not only with the help of sight, but also with scent. To identify the female fish of their species, they pay attention to the rod, the shape of the bait and its glow.
The character of these deep-sea fish is in a certain way visible through the relationship between male and female, which is unique in some varieties of anglerfish . Among these unusual fish, there is such a thing as male parasitism.
It is characteristic of four families of anglerfish:
Such an unusual symbiosis is manifested in the fact that the male parasitizes the body of the female, gradually turning into her appendage . Seeing his partner, the male literally bites into her with his sharpest teeth, then he begins to grow together with her tongue and lips, gradually turning into an appendage on the body, necessary in order to produce sperm. Feeding, the female also feeds the gentleman who has grown up to her.
Interesting fact: On the body of one female anglerfish, there can be six males at once, which are necessary in order to start fertilizing eggs at the right time.
Social structure and reproduction
Sexual maturity occurs in different species at different ages. For example, males of the European monkfish become sexually mature closer to six years old, and females are able to reproduce offspring only at 14 years old, when their length reaches a meter. The spawning period for these unusual fish does not occur for everyone at the same time. Fish populations living in the north spawn from March to May. Fish living further south spawn from January to June.
In the wedding fish season, angler-shaped ladies and their gentlemen spend at a depth of 40 meters to 2 km. Having descended to a depth, the female begins spawning, and the males fertilize the eggs. After that, the fish rush to shallow water, where they begin to eat off. Whole ribbons are formed from anglerfish eggs, which are covered with mucus on top. The width of such a tape can be from 50 to 90 cm, its length ranges from 8 to 12 meters, and its thickness does not exceed 6 mm. Such ribbon rafts of eggs, which contain about a million of them, drift in sea waters, and the eggs in them are located in special hexagonal cells.
After some time, the cellular walls are destroyed, and the eggs are already in free swimming. The born anglerfish larvae exist in the upper water layers for two weeks. They are distinguished from adult fish by the shape of the body, which is not flattened; the fry have fairly large pectoral fins. At first they feed on small crustaceans, eat eggs and larvae of other fish.
Interesting fact: The size of the eggs can be different, it all depends on the type of fish. In the European anglerfish, eggs vary in diameter from 2 to 4 mm, in the American monkfish it is smaller, its diameter is from 1.5 to 1.8 mm.
Developing and growing up, anglerfish fry are constantly changing, gradually becoming similar to their mature relatives. When the length of their body reaches 8 mm, the fish move to live from the surface to a deeper level. In the first year of life, sea devils grow very rapidly, then the pace of their development proceeds much more slowly. The life span measured by nature for anglers varies depending on the type of fish, but the longest-lived among these deep-sea inhabitants can be called the American monkfish, which can live for about 30 years.
Anglerfish’s natural enemies
The anglerfish has practically no enemies in natural conditions. Apparently, this is due to his very deep-sea lifestyle, intimidating external features and talent for unsurpassed disguise. It is almost impossible to see such a fish at the bottom, because it merges with the surface soil to such an extent that it is one with it.
As already mentioned, their own greed for food and excessive gluttony often ruin fish lives. The anglerfish swallows too much prey, because of which it chokes on it and dies, because it is not able to spit it out due to the special structure of its teeth. It is not uncommon for caught sea devils to find prey in their stomachs, which is only a few centimeters smaller than the fish predator itself. The meat of sea devils is considered a delicacy, there are practically no bones in it, it has a dense texture. Most of these fish are caught in the UK and France.
Interesting fact: There is evidence that from 24 to 34 thousand tons of the European variety of anglerfish are caught annually worldwide.
Anglerfish meat has a sweet and delicate taste, it is not at all fatty. But they use mainly the tail part of the fish for food, and everything else is usually considered waste.
Population and species status
As previously reported, the anglerfish is a commercial fish. To catch it, special bottom trawls and gill nets are used, so deep-sea habitat does not save this unusual fish. Catching the European monkfish in thousands of tons leads to a decrease in the number of its population, which cannot but worry. The fish suffers because of its dense and tasty meat, in which there are almost no bones. Especially the French know a lot about monkfish dishes.
The West Atlantic anglerfish is mined in Brazil, 9,000 tons of it is caught annually all over the world. Large-scale harvesting of anglerfish has resulted in the fish becoming rare in certain habitats and considered endangered. This, for example, happened to the American anglerfish, which, due to overfishing, has very little left, which causes concern for many environmental organizations.
So, the anglerfish population is on the decline. The love for delicious fish meat has led some species to the threat of extinction, because this fish was caught in huge quantities. In some countries and regions, the anglerfish is considered to be in the Red Book and needs special protective measures in order not to completely disappear from the deep sea.
As already noted, the anglerfish population is declining, so in some regions there are very few of them left. The mass catch of this fish, which is considered commercial and especially valuable in terms of taste and nutritional qualities, led to such a disappointing situation. About eight years ago, the notorious Greenpeace organization included the American monkfish in their Red Lists of marine life that are at high risk of extinction due to uncontrolled catch in huge quantities. In England, it is forbidden to sell anglerfish in many supermarkets.
The European anglerfish has been listed in the Red Book of Ukraine since 1994 as an endangered species. The main protective measures here are a ban on catching this fish, identifying the places of its permanent deployment and including them in the lists of protected areas. On the territory of Crimea, the European anglerfish is also on the Red Lists, because. is extremely rare.
In other countries, active fishing of anglerfish continues, although the number of their livestock has recently decreased significantly, but fishing is allowed. It remains to be hoped that certain restrictions on the catch of these unusual deep-sea creatures will be introduced in the near future, otherwise the situation may become irreparable.
In the end, I would like to add that such an extraordinary inhabitant of the mysterious dark depths as an anglerfish strikes not only its appearance and the presence of a unique fishing rod, but also a colossal difference between male and female fish individuals. A lot of mysterious and unknown things are going on in the deep-sea realm of the oceans, including the life activity of these amazing fish has not yet been fully explored, which even more attracts attention to them and arouses unprecedented interest.