The deep ocean waters never cease to amaze those who venture in the pitch-black darkness of this realm.
Researchers at the Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography agree, as they recently brought to light a species of anglerfish never seen before. With the typical terrifying looks of other anglerfish, this deep-water creature is nothing short of mesmerizing.
The anglerfish, found in the northern Gulf of Mexico, has been described in a research paper published in Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.
Nova Southeastern University Ph.D. researcher Tracey Sutton stated:
“As a researcher, the one thing I know is that there’s so much more we can learn about our oceans. Every time we go out on a deep-sea research excursion there’s a good chance we’ll see something we’ve never seen before – the life at these depths is really amazing”.
The three anglerfish are living proof to sustain this statement. The species has been named Lasiognathus Regan. The three females were lurking in the dark deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico at 3,000 to 4,000 meters depths. Yet, do not imagine a deep water monster. The three found females measure less than two inches in length.
And yet, they pack all the necessary features that make anglerfish rather a scare tale. With the long, sharp, needle-like teeth and the thick, lightly coloured skin as well as their head that is almost as big as their bodies, toppled by the distracting appendage, the three Lasiognathus Regan females are nothing short of fascinating.
The appendage angling from the fish’s head serves them well in the pitch-black darkness of the deep waters, where nothing except the bioluminescence of each deep water creatures provides a momentary flicker of light.
The luminous appendage is not just a tool for guiding itself sometimes, but also the bait smaller creatures are attracted to before becoming anglerfish meal. It is a double edged sword, nevertheless. While attracting its prey, the Lasiognathus Regan attracts larger predators as well.
Doctor Sutton is not only interested in finding new species lying in the deep water. In 2014, the Nova Southeastern University received 8.5 million dollars under the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to study oil spills, their effects and response strategies.
The research in this area complements Dr. Tracey Sutton’s interest in the synergy of trophic levels starting from the surface waters to the deep-pelagic zones where the deep water fauna and ecology are certainly under-studied.
The three anglerfish found in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico are labeled ‘type specimens’, which means that they are individuals that define the species.
For now, the three females found a home in the Ichthyology Collection of the University of Washington, which boasts the largest anglerfish species collection in the world.
Photo Credits: sciencespacerobots.com