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Rare Deep-Sea Anglerfish Caught on Camera

Nov 22, 2014 11:30 AM EST
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In the dark waters off the California coast, a rare deep-sea anglerfish [not pictured] was caught on camera for only about the sixth time in history, according to reports.
(Photo : Flickr/NOAA)

In the dark waters off the California coast, a rare deep-sea anglerfish was caught on camera for only about the sixth time in history, according to reports.

So needless to say scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) were surprised to find one lurking 2,000 feet below the surface in Monterey Canyon. The researchers hope that their footage can tell them more about this still widely mysterious and fearsome predator.

"We've been diving out here in the Monterey Canyon regularly for 25 years, and we've seen three," Bruce Robison, MBARI division chairman, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

"A video would tell us a lot about how it moves, swims, orients to gravity," added Ted Pietsch, a professor at the University of Washington.

Perhaps well recognized from the Pixar movie "Finding Nemo," Melanocetus, an anglerfish species, is a bizarre, and frankly ugly deep-sea creature. There's a reason why it's nicknamed the black seadevil. Males are tiny in comparison to the alpha females, who are the ones famous for the luminescent orb dangling from the "fishing rod" on their forehead, used to attract prey like small fish or squid. They also boast a vicious gape with numerous razor-sharp teeth.

Besides the fact that they can live in freezing, crushing water four times deeper than where this latest anglerfish was found, along with details of their life span and reproductive biology, not much is known about these deep-sea denizens.

Robinson described the anglerfish as being "among the most rarely seen of all deep-sea fishes," according to the Daily Mail.

To learn more, MBARI researchers have captured the 3.5-inch-long fish for further study. It is being kept in a dark tank with near-freezing water similar to temperatures of its ocean habitat, however it is not expected to live.

The deep sea is a vast and widely unexplored environment - we know more about the surface of the Moon than the deep sea - so the chance to learn more about one of its inhabitants is a rare and remarkable opportunity. Especially considering that deep-sea creatures, which are adapted to low oxygen waters, are more vulnerable to climate change and warming temperatures compared to other marine life.

In the past three decades, the bay water has warmed a tenth or two tenths of a degree.

"Animals that live in the oxygen minim zones are adapted to low oxygen, but they might be close to their limit," Brad Seibel, an assistant professor of marine biology at the University of Rhode Island, told the Sentinel.

You can watch the MBARI team's video footage here.

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