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December 10, 2010

The deepsea anglerfish is one of the most fascinating creatures

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Photo by Larry Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
10 December 2010

To me,one of the most fascinating creatures is the deepsea angler fish. They are known for the fleshy growth suspended above their mouths, which acts as a lure, supposedly.

The growth is tipped with a growth of flesh called an esca, which attracts prey to the proximity of the anglerfish. Once the filament, which can sometimes be bioluminescent, is touched, the fish's jaws automatically open.

But what interests me the most is their method of reproduction. When scientists first began collecting specimens of anglerfish, they were confused about the fact that most of those they caught were females. However, they all appeared to have parasites attached to them. With further study, they found that these were not parasites at all, but the male portion of the species.

Amazingly, the males live only to find and mate with a female. They are equipped with super-smell so they can detect the scent of their woman. It is somewhat sad that some of the males might have trouble finding food, while others have stunted digestive systems, which means that finding a female is of the highest importance.

Once a male finds a female, he lovingly bites into her skin, and releases an enzyme that digest his and her skin, melding them together. Eventually the male sacrifices his life for the survival of his gonads, which are all that remains of him.

Several males can conjoin to a single female, and the purpose of this sexual dimorphism is that when a female is ready to mate, a mate is immediately available.

I find it amazing that life can create such diverse organisms!

For some fun, check out The Oatmeal's version of the life of a male anglerfish! It's one of my favourites!

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