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Home > Do Deep-Sea Fish Explode When They Are Brought to the Surface? > Living in a Difficult Place > The Anglerfish: A Famous Resident of the Deep

Do deep-sea fish explode when they are brought to the surface?
The Anglerfish: A Famous Resident of the Deep

Anglerfish make up about 80% of the deep-sea population. There are more than 320 different species of them (belonging to the larger group called Lophiiformes).

A fish.

  • When we look at photos of anglerfish, we’re usually looking at females.
  • Many female anglerfish are as large as the fist of a human adult. The largest anglerfish that we know of is more than 2 metres long.
  • Female anglerfish have a long "fishing pole" with one or more lures that dangle near their mouth—and sometimes glow in the dark—to attract a meal.
  • They also have huge jaws that can quickly grab any food that comes their way. Their big teeth act as a cage to trap their prey in their mouth or to impale fish.
  • Some anglerfish have a thin, flexible body that allows their stomach to expand when they eat a big meal.
  • Some male anglerfish are quite different from the female, especially those species that live in the extreme deep. They are much smaller and look like tadpoles. Their sole purpose in life is to find a female to mate with.
A man holds a female anglerfish specimen with a small male attached underneath.

Researcher Theodore Pietsch holds a female anglerfish. We can see a small male attached underneath.

  • In some species of deep-sea anglerfish, the male does not eat at all. It swims until it finds a female and then attach onto her body. The male then lives off the female anglerfish's blood for the rest of his life by fusing its circulatory system with that of the female.
  • Anglerfish have no swim bladder or lungs.

An Expert Opinion

Professor Theodore Pietsch."The males are dwarfed, tiny little things. If they don’t find a female in a year, they die. If they do find a female, they bite onto her body and attach to her. All her blood flows to his body and he exists on her nutrients, like a parasite."

Theodore Pietsch
Professor and Curator of Fishes
University of Washington

An image from a video that shows an anglerfish in the ocean depths. Watch This Video!

See an Anglerfish Up Close!
Watch this video of an anglerfish in its deep-ocean habitat.
(1 min. 18 sec.)

From Deep in the Collections

A specimen of the very luminous Sloane's Viperfish (Chauliodus sloani) in a liquid-filled jar. From the collection of the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN89-0055).The Canadian Museum of Nature has a collection of more than 10 million specimens, including examples of deep-sea fish.

Many of these fish are very delicate and need to be handled very carefully. To keep them in good shape, they are kept in preservatives.

Living in a Difficult Place
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