Home > Science > I’m Glad I Wasn’t Born an Anglerfish

I’m Glad I Wasn’t Born an Anglerfish

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

After taking just one look at an anglerfish, you can tell that they are weird creatures. Even for fish, they’re ugly. They’ve got tiny little, dead eyes, and disproportionately large mouths that aren’t filled with teeth, but fangs. Then there’s their namesake, a tiny bioluminescent bulb that hangs in front of them luring smaller fish to their doom. The bulb is actually an offshoot of the first spine of their dorsal fin and is called the esca. An anglerfish can move the esca in any direction and even wiggle it around in resemblance of other fish.

Humpback anglerfish

The bio-luminescence of the esca isn’t produced by the anglerfish, but actually by symbiotic bacteria.  The bacteria normally float around in the ocean in small clumps, once they find an anglerfish, they move into the esca and turn it into a shag pad. Once they’ve propagated themselves a couple hundred times, the bacteria colony gives the esca a nice, fish-luring glow. Once the anglerfish successfully angles a fish, it can distend its stomach and jaws which allows it to swallow prey twice it’s size. The fangs can also be depressed so that food can enter the anglerfish’s mouth, but can’t escape. It’s basically the rapex condom of the chordata phylum.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, some of the anglerfish have developed pectoral fins that more resemble legs than they do fins. By utilizing them, they’re able to walk across the ocean floor. I can only imagine that they’ve developed this behavior in hopes of one day conquering dry land. All of you with oceanfront property can now contribute something back to humanity and wait with flamethrowers ready for this imminent invasion.

As if all of that weren’t weird enough, we come to the big kahuna of anglerfish weirdness. When scientists were first studying the angler fish, all they could catch were females of the species, and could never find males. The females that they did catch almost always had one or more unknown parasites attached. The scientists found out that these parisites were actually the males of the species. When male anglerfish are born, they are cursed with great smell receptors, but nothing else of use. Their entire purpose is to find a female before they die, since they’re SOL when it comes to finding food on their own. When the males find a female, they attach themselves, and the male’s bodies slowly atrophy as their circulatory systems fuse together. Everything in the male fish eventually wastes away (body, brain, heart, eyes, organs, everything) except for their gonads, which only become active because hormones are released in the female blood stream. The gonads do their work, and the females get pregnant. This makes the anglerfish nature’s necrophiliacs, IMHO, dethroning the praying mantis from the coveted spot.

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Categories: Science
  1. Amber
    December 7, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    I will say that I had absolutely NO idea about what it was to be a male anglerfish. So thank you for enhancing my knowledge, djbigalke. Now what does the mating procedure of the anglerfish imply for us, as humans? An overabundant desire to anthropomorphize everything, probably.

  2. David
    December 7, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Actually, it’s not quite necrophilia, but one of those creepy dependency relationship where the guy gives up his identity entirely. The main difference between the human ones and the angler fish ones is that in the creepy dependency relationship in humans, nads are the first thing to go, whereas they seem to be the only thing left for the fish.

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