The 27 Best Deep-Sea Species: #19 Black Devil Anglerfish


#19 Black Devil or Humpback Anglerfish (Melanocetus johnsonii, Class Actinopterygii, Order Lophiiformes, Family Melanocetidae)

This species has become the vertebrate poster child for deep-sea science.  What’s not to love?  The size of a tennis ball, the females can swallow prey four times their size because of a flabby stomach.  Thanks to tiny fins and a virtually absent tail these fleshy footballs are not going anywhere fast.

The prominent lure not just a lighted organ to attract prey but a beacon of sexual energy attracting potential mates.  And those tiny males, barely ten percent of the female’s length, are little more than swimming sperm sacks.  When the males find a female, they attach, living the rest of their life a parasite.  Those females are very lucky indeed. Below the fold Sir Attenborough’s ode to the anglerfish.  Now for anglerfish haiku. Feel free to include yours below in the comments.

The twilight zone –
two angler fish begin the cycle:
always as one.


Pictures from Ocean Explorer and

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

4 comments on “The 27 Best Deep-Sea Species: #19 Black Devil Anglerfish
  1. Unbelievable. The video actually frightened me. The wonders of nature indeed. That is one “football” I wouldn’t want to wrap my hand around.

Comments are closed.