Researchers in the US have released what they believe to be the first video footage showing a bizarre-looking Black Sea Devil anglerfish in the wild.
As anglerfish live in the deep sea, they are very rarely seen in their natural habitat, and fewer than half a dozen have ever been captured on film or video in the wild, according to experts at the Monterrey Bay Acquarium Research Institute (MBARI).
Using a remotely operated vehicle submerged some 2,000 (600 metres) beneath the surface of the Monterrey Canyon in California, MBARI researcher Doc Ricketts has shot what is thought to be the first footage of a female Black Sea Devil species of anglerfish alive and at depth.
The footage taken this month clearly showcases the 9cm-long creature’s strange physique, including her bulbous head, glass-like eyes, and curious illicium - the light-bulb-like growth from her head which she uses to attract prey.
The video is narrated by MBARI Senior Scientist Bruce Robison. He tells viewers: “Anglers have a remarkable apparatus on their heads: a fishing pole, with a luminous lure at the tip, which they use to attract their prey. In the darkness of deep water, they flash the light to attract prey and draw them near the angler's mouth.
“When a fish or a squid swims up, it is quickly inhaled by the angler's huge mouth and trapped by its long, sharp teeth.”
He adds that the male Black Sea Devils are smaller, and don’t have a “fishing pole” attachment - rendering them “ill-equipped for feeding”.
“Their sole responsibility appears to be to find a female and mate with her as soon as possible,“ Robison explains.
He told the Santa Cruz Sentinel: “We've been diving out here in the Monterey Canyon regularly for 25 years, and we've seen three.”
Black Sea Devils, a species of anglerfish, are found in tropical to temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Scientists and researchers know little of the rare creature, other than its life span and how it reproduces.
Robinson told US broadcaster KSBW that when a male anglerfish finds a mate, he bites her and their tissues fuse together.
“The male's body degenerates until it's a lump of tissue surrounding testicles” and the female then carries the male with her for the rest of her life, and continues to collect mates, he added.
He told the station he's seen 11 males attached to a single female.
“The deep sea is filled with surprises and wonderful creatures,” Robison concludes in the video, adding: “Humans have only just begun to explore this vast realm, and we can only imagine what discoveries are yet to be made.”