Distribution & Habitat
Most anglerfish live in the Atlantic and the Antarctic Oceans. Their habitat is usually on the seafloor a mile deep, but some live in more shallow tropical waters.
Instead of scales like most fish have, deep-sea anglerfish have thin skin. It is so thin that it slips right off if a person tries to pick up the fish. Anglerfish have weak, floppy muscles. The smallest anglerfish is less than ¼ inch (64 mm). The largest may grow up to six feet (2 m) in length. The shape of the anglerfish’s is more like a cone instead of an oval or sphere.
The male deep-sea anglerfish is one-tenth the size of the female. He has no lure, and no teeth either, so he cannot feed. But he has an excellent sense of smell to find a female. Once he locates it, it attaches to her and fertilizes her eggs. He may then merge into her body and live as a parasite on her.
Anglerfish are best known for the clever way they capture their prey. Their body has what looks like a fishing pole and a lure. They are usually well camouflaged. When they rest on the seafloor, only their lures can be seen. The spine that forms the anglerfish’s rod is called illicium.
The lure, or bait, is called esca. Many esca are shaped like small marine animals. They may look like shrimp, worms, or small fish. The fish keeps its body still but moves the glowing lure in front of its mouth. Once a fish or other prey comes close enough, it is sucked into the anglerfish’s giant mouth.