New Anglerfish Found
The Earth is warming, our air and water are becoming increasingly polluted and hundreds of species hover on the brink of extinction, BUT WAIT, there’s still some good news out there: Divers off Ambon Island in Indonesia recently found a new fish.
And we’re not talking about a cute little Nemo-like fish. This one’s weird. The fist-sized fish has a flat face with eyes pointing forward, rippling folds of skin that hide its fins and pectoral fins that look (and possibly act) like legs. It’s these leg-like appendages that made University of Washington professor Ted Pietsch—the world’s leading authority on anglerfishes—say that this new-found fish is, without a doubt, an anglerfish.
Anglerfish (named for the lure-like appendage that protrudes from the head to attract prey–see the Finding Nemo version here) are found worldwide. Of the 18 families of anglerfish, this new fish (unnamed so far) is most similar to the frogfish, which crawls along the sea floor using leg-like fins. But frogfish have lures and the new fish does not—Dr. Pietsch suspects that it may represent an entirely new family of anglerfish.
Beyond its bizarre appearance, the fish is even more unique. Without a lure to attract prey, how does it find food? Divers have seen the fish squeeze itself into tiny cracks, most likely in search of food. But what it does within those cracks is anybody’s guess. Most fish have an eye on each side of the head to see threats, obstacles and prey on both sides of the body. But this fish’s eyes both face forward, like a human’s, so both eyes can see the same thing. This trait, called binocular vision, allows the fish to judge distance. Why does this fish need to judge distance? Who knows.
In some ceratioids (known as deep-sea anglerfishes, devilfishes and seadevils), males are totally dependent on females for survival. As the male matures, his digestive system degenerates to the point that he can no longer feed himself. He uses his well-developed olfactory organs to detect the pheromones of a female anglerfish and, when he finds himself a lady anglerfish, he bites her skin. With the bite, he releases an enzyme that digests the skin of his mouth and the female’s body so that the two fish become fused–even sharing the same blood vessels. Once the male is sufficiently fused with the female, his body atrophies leaving only a pair of gonads. The gonads are inactive until the female is ready to spawn. The female releases eggs and the male gonads respond to the accompanying shift in hormones by releasing sperm. Essentially, the male becomes a parasite and the female, a self-fertilizing hermaphrodite. In some species, only one male attaches to each female, but in others up to eight male parasites have been found on a single female.