Even Scientists Were Shocked By This Bizarre Anglerfish Mating Ritual [VIDEO]

Published March 23, 2018

The anglerfish has never before been seen mating in the wild.

For the first time ever, scientists have captured a video of anglerfish mating.

The video of the elusive fish, captured off the southern coast of Sao Jorge Island, shows something that researchers have never seen in the wild; an anglerfish pair in the midst of their mating ritual.

In what looks more like a dazzling light show than a mating ritual, a fist-sized female fanfin anglerfish hovers in the deep water, with a tiny male anglerfish attached to her lower abdomen. Scientists have known how the anglerfish reproduces, but have never before seen it in action.

Like all anglerfish species, male and female fanfin (known by its scientific name C. jordani) mate for life. Once a male finds a female, he bites into her abdomen and fuses with her tissue. Over time, he begins to rely on her for sustenance, and in turn, serves as a permanent sperm provider. The bizarre ritual has been seen post-mortem, as dead females have washed ashore with dead males stuck to their underbelly’s though it has never been seen in the wild, and certainly never been caught on camera.

“I’ve been studying these [animals] for most of my life and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Ted Pietsch, a deep-sea fish researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. The pair of deep-sea divers that caught the video, husband and wife team Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen sent the video to Pietsch as soon as they surfaced, anxious to discover more about their find.

As not much is known about the elusive anglerfish, of which there are roughly 160 species, as most of the specimens that have been studied have been dead, either found washed up or caught in fishing nets. The Jakobsen’s video will prove an invaluable source of information for future study.

In addition to the mating ritual, the video also changes what scientists knew about the anglerfish’s bioluminescence.

Scientists knew that the anglerfish used a bioluminescent protrusion on their heads to lure in prey, but did not know that the rest of the fish’s body glowed as well. In the video, dozens of whisker-like filaments from the fish seem to emit light, along with the fish’s fins. The light show shocked even Pietsch when he saw it, as he never expected to see a video that was so full of new insight.

“So you can see how rare and important this discovery is,” Pietsch says. “It was really a shocker for me.”

Next, check out more bizarre ocean creatures. Then, read about the deep-water ghost octopus that’s baffling scientists.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a staff writer at All That's Interesting.