Saturday, May 19, 2012

Those Scary-looking Anglerfish With the Big Teeth are Female

Public Domain Image (PD-1923) via Wikimedia Commons
This deep sea fish may be familiar due to its appearance in Finding Nemo, as well as its appearance on almost every list of "the world's ugliest animals." However, you're not likely to see one in person. Seeing a male deep sea anglerfish would be even less likely, and if you did see one, you probably wouldn't know it. When it comes to the humpback anglerfish (the kind in the above drawing) and "sea devils," the fishing lure and huge mouth full of teeth belong only to the females.

You may wonder where the males are. Well, you'll usually find them connected to the body of the female. When a male angler becomes sexually mature, his digestive system stops working. His options are then to either die of starvation, or find a female and join with her as a parasite. Neither option is a great one for the poor male. When he finds a female, he bites her, and then his mouth dissolves into her body. Their blood vessels merge, and over time, the male's organs are absorbed until the only things left of him are his gonads. The female can then use them when she wants to spawn, and she can end up with up to six "males" attached to her.

As far as the lure and giant teeth: the female uses her lure like a human angler would - to draw her prey (other fish) close enough for her to snatch with those teeth. The teeth are angled inward to help keep the prey from escaping, and her jaw and body are pliable enough to allow her to eat prey twice her size.

(Apologies for the lack of updates lately. My classes are starting to take up most of my time. I'll post again soon... I promise!)

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