Deep-sea anglerfish captured off Monterey

Anglerfish
Anglerfish uses luminescent tip at the end of its “fishing pole” to entice prey; video screen grab

Scientists exploring the depths of Monterey Bay off California have captured rare footage of a deep-sea anglerfish, and even managed to collect the live specimen for study.

The encounter occurred 2,000 feet beneath the surface and the peculiar-looking fish was observed and captured via the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s remotely-operated vehicle, the ROV Doc Ricketts.

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Dr. Bruce Robison of MBARI described the anglerfish as being “among the most rarely seen of all deep-sea fishes,” and said the accompanying video contains what’s believed to be the first-ever footage of a live anglerfish in its deep-sea habitat.

The small but scary-looking fish is named because of the manner by which it feeds: by dangling the luminescent tip at the end of a “fishing pole” projecting from its head, and using the “glowing lure” to attract unsuspecting prey. It then snatches that prey, usually a small fish or squid, with its long, sharp teeth.

Anglerfish
The mysterious anglerfish was featured in a scene in “Finding Nemo”; video screen grab

Females are much larger than males, which lack the ferocious-looking appearance. The male’s sole purpose in life is to find a mate.

While these fish are mysterious and rarely observed, many will find them to look familiar based on a scene in the popular animated movie “Finding Nemo,” in which Marlin and Dory are entranced by the glowing light and narrowly escape capture.

The anglerfish captured by MBARI is also called a black seadevil, and measures only 3.5 inches.

A spokeswoman for the facility said the fish is being kept in a dark tank with near-freezing water—similar to its ocean habitat—but it’s not expected to live.

MBARI scientists have observed only three anglerfish in their years of deep-sea exploration. They’re hoping the footage will help them learn more about how the species’ movements and habits.

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