‘Freaky’ new deep-sea fish: New Anglerfish Species

Published: August 7, 2015

‘Freaky’ new deep-sea fish: New Anglerfish Species, Deep sea creatures have adapted to survive in one of the harshest environments on the planet, including bone-crushing pressures and complete pitch-black darkness.

As a result many of them look other-worldly, whether it is the aptly named blobfish or the monstrous giant spider crab.

And now scientists have discovered a new addition to the anglerfish family – which have bizarre light-emitting appendages – in the Gulf of Mexico.

The new fish was discovered by a researcher at the Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography at a depth of between 3,281-4,921 feet (1,000-1,500 metres).

It is bright orange and sports a long head appendage resembling an insect’s leg, and its mouth is surrounded by whisker-like barbels.

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Dr Tracey Sutton is one of NSU’s experts on deep-sea life. He said: ‘As a researcher, the one thing I know is that there’s so much more we can learn about our oceans.’

Humans are effective predators, and selective harvest of animals by humans represents one of the strongest drivers of evolutionary change for wild animal populations, according to Dr Shaun Killen.

Fishing is a selective process which removes individuals that, under normal circumstances, may have the highest reproductive potential.

‘Available evidence suggests selective harvest can lead to genetic change within wild populations for specific traits,’ he said.

‘Using simulated trawling, our study provides the first evidence better swimming fish, and those with higher metabolic rates, are more likely to escape capture.

‘Over time, the selective removal of poor-swimming fish could alter the fundamental physiological makeup of descendant populations that avoid fisheries capture.’

‘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.’

While it is obviously an anglerfish – it features the the long appendage sprouting from its head like other animals in the family – it has a uniquely bizarre face that sets it apart from its ugly cousins in the anglerfish family.

Three female specimens were found to be a new species of Ceratioid anglerfish and ranged from 1.2-3.7 inches (30-95 mm) in length.

Anglerfish live at depths where there is absolutely no sunlight filtering through the seawater above them.

At these depths the only light is made by creatures with bioluminescence, which means they generate their own light source.

Also, at these depths, the pressure is immense – over 2,200 pounds (one ton) per square inch (6.45 square centimetres).

In these conditions the fight to find food is fierce, and the anglerfish has a curious adaption in its arsenal.

It uses its head appendage as a fishing rod of sorts, issuing light from the tip that small fish are attracted to, only to be engulfed by its gaping mouth.

‘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.’

Dr Sutton studies the ecology of deep ocean marine systems. As part of those efforts, Dr Sutton is leading a team of scientists and researchers studying the effects of oil spills on deep-sea marine life.

The three female specimens of anglerfish are considered ‘type specimens’ – meaning they define the species – and as such, Dr Sutton said they will reside in the Ichthyology Collection at the University of Washington, which is home to the world’s largest deep-sea anglerfish collection.

The findings have been published by The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Copeia, an international journal that publishes research on fish, amphibians and reptiles.

'Freaky' new deep-sea fish: New Anglerfish Species

'Freaky' new deep-sea fish: New Anglerfish Species

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