Bizarre New Deep-sea Anglerfish Discovered In Gulf Of Mexico

Deep-sea life contains some of the most interesting and unique creatures in the oceans. Most people can identify a shark or sea turtle or whale, but many are shocked to see what a lanternfish or oarfish looks like. Deep-sea creatures can be down-right scary looking.

Now you can add another to the list of weird deep-sea creatures. A researcher from Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography recently found a never-before seen species from the deep waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Tracey Sutton, Ph.D., is one of NSU’s experts on deep-sea life and he teamed up with Theodore Pietsch, Ph.D. from the University of Washington to formally describe this new species of anglerfish.

“As a researcher, the one thing I know is that there”s so much more we can learn about our oceans,” Dr. Sutton said. “Every time we go out on a deep-sea research excursion there’s a good chance we’ll see something we’ve never seen before — the life at these depths is really amazing.”

Ceratioid Anglerfish

This new fish, which was found between 1,000-1,500 meters depth, is a new species of Ceratioid anglerfish (Genus Lasiognathus Regan [Lophiiformes: Oneirodidae]). The three females specimens found ranged in size from 30-95 mm in length.

Looking at the photo of the fish (top of the post), one quickly understands how anglerfishes get their common name.

Haplophryne mollis

“Haplophryne mollis (female, with atrophied male attached)”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

At the ocean depths this fish lives in, there is no sunlight. The only light is that from creatures that produce bioluminescence, which means they generate their own light source.

Also, at these depths, the pressure is immense, over one ton (2,200 pounds) per square inch. And the fight for food is never-ending.

Type Specimens

That’s why these fish have developed their unique way of attracting prey, from the appendage at the top of their head, which resembles a fishing pole of sorts. And, like its human counterparts, this fish dangles the appendage until an unsuspecting fish swims up thinking they found a meal, only to quickly learn that they are, in fact, a meal themselves.

“Finding this new species reinforces the notion that our inventory of life in the vast ocean interior is far from complete,” said Dr. Sutton. “Every research trip is an adventure and another opportunity to learn about our planet and the varied creatures who call it home.”

As for this new anglerfish, the three female specimens are considered “type specimens” (i.e. they define the species,) and as such, Dr. Sutton said that they will reside in the Ichthyology Collection at the University of Washington, which is home to the world’s largest deep-sea anglerfish collection.

[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=””]Theodore W. Pietsch, Tracey T. Sutton.
A New Species of the Ceratioid Anglerfish GenusLasiognathusRegan (Lophiiformes: Oneirodidae) from the Northern Gulf of Mexico.
Copeia, 2015; 103 (2): 429 DOI: 10.1643/CI-14-181[/thrive_text_block]

Photo: Theodore Pietsch, Ph.D., University of Washington