Marching ... er... swimming on. Our final deep sea contestant for the weird and wonderful brought to you by our marvelous Creator is the Anglerfish.
I know, it's really creepy! But if you lived almost a mile below the surface and in total darkness ... well ... you'd probably look a little creepy too!
Anglerfish have often won the accolade of being the ugliest creature on the planet. Generally dark gray to dark brown in color, they have large heads with crescent shaped mouths filled with sharp, fang like translucent teeth that are angled inward. They vary in length from 8 inches to 3 feet long and can weigh up to 100 pounds. (And this is NOT something I would ever want to find on the end of my fishing line-if I ever actually did any fishing. :)) Their skin and bones are very flexible though fragile. This flexibility enables them to swallow prey twice their size. This is a handy ability to have when you live where food is scarce.
The more than 200 species of Anglerfish live up to a mile below the surface in the cold and murky depths of the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans. A lucky few do live in shallow, tropical environments.
One of the most fascinating things about these fish is the distinctive spine on the females that juts out from the middle of her head and resembles a fishing pole with a light globe at the end. This is what she uses to attract her prey.
The adult males don’t need this fishing line because this species gives a whole new meaning to ‘and the two shall become as one flesh’. The digestive tract of the male Anglerfish stops functioning when he reaches maturity. In order to survive, he hooks onto the female with small teeth and releases an enzyme that digests the skin of her body and his mouth. This allows them to fuse and in fact their blood vessels ultimately join and they become one creature. The females however are quite fickle and not satisfied with just one mate, a female will sometimes have up to six males attached to her. Weird!
So, do you agree that this is one of the ugliest creatures on the planet? Or is there perhaps something beautiful about their ability to bring even a tiny bit of light to an otherwise dark existence?
Susan J Donetti
Lives in Northern California with her husband, two dogs, three cats and one horse.