The deep sea anglerfish and its bizarre reproduction

In the darkest depths of the ocean where the water is freezingly cold, the pressure is enormous and food is scarce lives the angry-looking deep sea anglerfish. It is an incredible example of how living organisms manage to survive in even the most inhospitable environment. Even more incredible is their way of reproducing, which is one of the most bizarre in the animal kingdon

weird angler fish The deep sea anglerfish and its bizarre reproduction

The ferocious looking deep sea anglerfish has one of the most extreme methods of reproduction

The deep sea anglerfish is one of the deep ocean’s most fascinating residents. Living at the extreme depths between 1.5 and 2.5 km, their most peculiar appearance is a modified fin that acts as a lure, hanging above their huge mouths with needle-like teeth. The tip of this “fishing rod” on top of its head is bioluminescent (glowing in the dark) because of bacteria living inside it and attracts prey as moths to a lightbulb. By wiggling the glowing outgrowth, it lures prey close enough to devour them whole! Because of thin, soft bones and jelly-like skin, these scary looking fish can expand their jaws and stomach to such an extend that they are even able to actually swallow prey up to twice their own size. In the deep sea where food is very scarce, being able to eat large quantities at once is a great adapation.

Angler Fish The deep sea anglerfish and its bizarre reproduction

The scary looking deep sea anglerfish has long needle-like teeth

Despite its ferocious appearance, the deep sea anglerfish is actually pretty small. Females will only reach a length of about 10 centimeters, while male are only a fraction of this can can be more than 10 times smaller. Males of one specific species of are even the world smallest fish, measuring only some 6.2 mm. However, because of the much larger size of females, it is not the smallest species of fish in the world.

male deep sea angler fish The deep sea anglerfish and its bizarre reproduction

Males of the deep sea anglerfish are very very tiny and may only measure some 6mm!

Because individuals are so sparesly populated, finding a mate in the depths of the deep sea is problematic. To still be able to reproduce, the deep sea anglerfish have one of the most bizarre methods of reproduction.

When scientists first discovered these fish, they kept wondering why all the fish they captures where females. However, after some time they noticed that small “growths” on the females skin, which upon closer inspection turned out to be males (see image below). The tiny males live solely to find a female. Upon encounter, a male bites into her skin after which the tissues of the male and female become completely fused together so that their blood vessels join as one. The male now assured of a life without the need to hunt for food, degenerates his eyes and all internal organs exept for the testes!

World smallest fish the male angler fish The deep sea anglerfish and its bizarre reproduction

This 46 mm female Photocorynus spiniceps has what looks like a small nub in the middle of her back. Actually, that’s a 6.2 mm long male, the world’s smallest known, sexually mature vertebrate

A female can carry up to six males on her body at a time and is therefore assured of a fresh supply of sperms. She can reproduce any time or place, without worrying about meeting a male in the darkness of the ocean.

I am astonished species can evolve to such extremes that the male is becomes nothing more than a small lump on the females skin to assure her of her own lifetime supply of fresh sperm.

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Jolle Jolles

Written by Jolle Jolles

Jolle Jolles is a zoologist working at the University of Cambridge with a love for natural history and animal behaviour and enjoys fascinating others about our weird and wonderful natural world. Follow Jolle on Twitter or sent him a personal message.

  • goos

    craaaazy! love the websute jolles! xxxx

    • http://mudfooted.com Jolle Jolles

      Thanks goos! Luckily is homo sapiens have a different reproduction strategy don’t you think? ;-) Good to hear from you!

  • http://taiyonsimage.blogspot.com Taiyon’s Image

    Very cool and interesting pictures. So pre-historic!!! I guess that was what you was aiming for.

  • Sanne

    Very cool and interesting blog again Jolle! Didn’t know this fish was so scary. Keep up the good work.

    • http://mudfooted.com Jolle Jolles

      Thanks sanne! Great to hear you like it.

  • SVESHKA

    wow! nice info.

  • http://mudfooted.com Jolle Jolles

    Thanks Sveshka!

  • http://www.angler-fish.com/ Deep Sea Angler Fish

    Such a crazy fish, almost like a freak of nature!

  • Maria

    Fascinating!

  • Matt

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/angler

    A more humorous version of the Angler fish reproduction. This is not a spam link I promise; it’s just an awesomely funny page that is related.

  • http://mudfooted.com Joll

    Thanks for the funny link Matt!

  • mahboobeh

    Hi ,Thank you very much for your information.I’m an ecologist in iran. I injoy it.

    • http://mudfooted.com Jolle Jolles

      Thanks Mahboobeh! Great to hear the information on Mudfooted.com is useful to you :)

  • Cameron

    Amazing,fantasic,and marvlous

  • http://deepsea-creatures.blogspot.com mary@Deep sea Anglerfish

    The deep sea anglerfish give me curiosity on how they create that light. Please post more about more interesting sea creatures . But totally your site is good and very informative.

  • http://mudfooted.com Jolle Jolles

    Thanks Mary! I will try and write more articles about the deep in the near future :)

  • http://gmail roxyshore

    cool facts :)
    i need infos about blob fish someone

  • Bella

    Finding Nemo anyone?

  • http://theroutenz.weebly.com devon beckman

    thanks i love anglerfish , i wish we could reproduce like they do ! ;)

    • Dr.Phil

      Pretty sure there are plenty of male humans who act more like a parasite then a care giver and merely hang around for the sex

  • http://youtube.com gg

    awsome

  • http://mudfooted.com/deep-sea-angler-fish-bizarre-reproduction/ babyc

    i think this is a good site to go

  • Amberlyn

    Just wanted to day this was really usefull for my school project!

  • Kate

    Proof read your articles, so many grammatical errors. Good info though!