The Anglerfish Really Is Stranger Than Fiction

If there is one thing that’s enough to get us talking, it’s the idea of what lives underwater. No, we’re not talking a few inches below the surface; we mean what resides thousands of feet below. Now, it turns out the anglerfish really is stranger than fiction.

The first anglerfish of many to come

Of course, there was once a time that we didn’t know all about the weird and wonderful things living below the surface of the water. The anglerfish was one on the list – until 1833. A strange fish washed ashore in Greenland, and zoologist Johannes Christopher Hagemann Reinhardy quickly named it the footballfish. This is the first time an anglerfish was documented, but little did anyone know that it would be the first of many to come. It’s not thought there are at least 170 species of anglerfish.

Luring in their prey

Anglerfish earned their name thanks to the famous glowing ball they use to lure in their prey. This is to attract crustaceans and fish deep in the ocean. They are a type of ambush predator, meaning they wait for something to venture close enough before they pounce. Anglerfish will often wiggle and move their light around to make it look even more enticing. Their light also shows scientists why they are so round. No, they don’t need to move more. In fact, they barely have to move at all, meaning they never had to adapt to be fast or to be able to swim over long periods.

Their famous glow

It turns out that an anglerfish isn’t necessarily born with a glow. However, no one is really sure how it works. We know the light comes from a type of glowing bacteria that lives in the lure. However, scientists haven’t figured out if it’s just a hosting station until the bacteria is strong enough to leave or if it stays with its anglerfish all the way through its life.

Unusual hunting habits

Proof the anglerfish really is stranger than fiction comes with their hunting habits. Their glow often doesn’t stop with their lure as many have glowing teeth, mouths, and backs, too, meaning prey has a reason to stick around as it’s mesmerized by the lights. As if that wasn’t enough, some anglerfish also have folding teeth. They work just like spikes into a parking lot, meaning a fish can swim in with ease, but the teeth won’t fold and let them back out.

The mating rituals are strange

Just when we thought things couldn’t get stranger, we learn about the anglerfish mating ritual. Males are ten times smaller than females and will track them down to bite into their lover. Here, males grip on and release an enzyme, essentially becoming a part of the female. Females don’t stop there either as they continue to collect partners, sometimes sporting as many as 12 at once.

It turns out the anglerfish really is stranger than fiction. Still, they’re one of the most interesting fish in the oceans as a result.