Fun Fish Fact Friday: The Anglerfish and sexy time

Anglerfish are pretty gruesome looking deep sea fish. They get their name from the filament growing out of their head that looks like a fishing lure. This lure is from a modified dorsal fin spine and often contains a fleshy bit at the end that has bioluminescent bacteria.

Anyway, we are here to talk about anglerfish sexy time. In one group of angler fish, the Ceratioids, the males and females have an unusual way of going about sexy time. You see, male ceratioids are small little guys with a powerful sense of smell. His only purpose in life is the find a female. So, using  his powerful sense of smell, he searches a female out. When he finds her, he doesn’t want to loose her, so he bites onto her. And then he releases an enzyme that dissolves his lips and the skin of the female. They end up fusing together down to the level of blood vessels. Then the male literally begins to waste away. He loses his digestive organs, eyes, heart, brain, everything until he basically becomes just  a pair of gonads sticking out the side of the female. These male gonads will release sperm in response to female hormonal changes which indicate the release of eggs. Females are often found with multiple “males” hanging off of them. Crazy, right!!! Look at the pics below.

Female anglerfish with male hanging off of her back. Photo found here: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/rss/podcasts/weirdfins/anglerfish.htm

Up close photo of male on female’s back.

The Oatmeal has a hilarious take on this in comic form. You can check it out here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/angler

 

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