Anglerfish, with their menacing gape and dangling lure, are among the most curious inhabitants of the deep ocean. Scientists have hardly ever seen them alive in their natural environment. That’s why a new video, captured in the waters around Portugal’s Azores islands, has stunned deep-sea biologists. It shows a fist-size female anglerfish, resplendent with bioluminescent lights and elongated whiskerlike structures projecting outward from her body. And if you look closely, she’s got a mate: A dwarf male is fused to her underside, essentially acting as a permanent sperm provider.
“I’ve been studying these [animals] for most of my life and I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Ted Pietsch, a deep-sea fish researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Most of what we know about deep-sea anglerfish comes from dead animals pulled up in nets. Scientists have identified more than 160 species, but only a handful of videos exist—and this is the first to show a sexually united pair. “So you can see how rare and important this discovery is,” Pietsch says. “It was really a shocker for me.”
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