The true inventors of the fishing lure
Anglerfish belong to the bony fish order Lophiliformes. They range in size from about six inches to more than four feet in length and are generally found in deep pelagic waters or continental shelf waters, often on or near the sea floor. The first spine of the dorsal fin has separated from the fin proper, is elongated, and hangs out over the face. Often inhabited with bioluminescent bacteria, the enlarged tip of this spine (or esca) is used to attach prey. When the prey is sufficiently close, the anglerfish opens its oversize mouth and swallows the prey whole. The teeth are slanted in, allowing the prey to easily enter the mouth, while making departure extremely difficult. The anglerfish has soft bones and can distend or expand both its mouth and its body, allowing it to swallow prey nominally larger than itself. The fishing lure technique seems to have evolved because the anglerfish generally live in resource-poor waters where prey may be scarce. The anglerfish is able to remain relatively stationary for long periods, waiting for prey to come to it, rather than expend energy scouring the seas for food. For some species of anglerfish, sexual reproduction presents a similar problem in that mates are often difficult to find. These particular species have developed a unique solution, not widely recommended. The males of these species are several orders of magnitude smaller than the females. They attach themselves to the females and atrophy to the point that they are no longer capable of an independent existence. Rather, their only real function is to provide sperm to fertilize the females’ eggs. Only one family of anglerfish, known in North America as the monkfish, are widely consumed by humans. The others are too few and widely dispersed to be targeted.