Jet-black, bioluminescent ‘football fish’ washed up on California beach | Smart News

Based on the footballer fish’s size and the protruding appendage on top of its head, state park officials said the fish was female. Footballer females are the only ones with the long bioluminescent appendage used to attract and lure other fish to their mouths.

Ben Estes

A rare deep-sea fish with teeth resembling tiny shards of glass, a football-shaped body and a long bioluminescent stalk on top of its head washed ashore in California this week. The sea creature was later identified as a female Pacific football fish (Himantolophus sagamius), reports Faith E. Pinho for the Los Angeles Times.

Beachgoer Ben Estes stumbled upon the rare find on the shores of Crystal Cove State Park Marine Protected Area in Newport Beach. The species is one of more than 200 species of anglerfish on the planet found at depths of 3,000 feet, reports Amanda Jackson for CNN.

“I don’t know if he understood the implications of what he found,” says Jessica Roame, education coordinator at Davey’s Locker Sportfishing & Whale Watching, at the Los Angeles Times. “It happens when you walk around – you find dead things here and there that just shouldn’t be on the beach. The problem is that it was almost perfectly intact. Where does it come from that deep below?”

Light cannot penetrate through water at these depths, and these fish live in complete darkness. Encounters with other fish and prey are infrequent, so football fish have evolved to feed on anything that fits their 18-inch mouth. To attract prey in the dark, the anglerfish uses an elongated fin that resembles a fishing rod with an incandescent bulb called escape at the end. Esca gets its shine from tiny bacteria called, Photobacteriumthat live in the pores of the anglerfish’s esca.

Based on the footballer fish’s size and the protruding appendage on top of its head, Crystal Cove State Park officials say the fish is female. Only female football fish have the long bioluminescent appendage used to lure and attract other fish to their mouths. Females can also reach a maximum size of 24 inches, while males are only an inch long, Crystal Cove State Park officials explain in a Facebook post. Publish. Males are “sex parasites” that latch onto a female and eventually fuse together until nothing is left of their bodies except their testicles for reproduction.

It’s unclear how the anglerfish ended up washing up on the California beach. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has taken the Pacific football fish as it is being sorted where the fish will go, reports Samantha Lock for Newsweek. California State Park officials have connected with the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History in hopes the fish can be added to their collection of ocean species. The museum already has three other anglerfish in its collection, but only one is from California. None are in pristine condition like the one that recently washed up on shore, says John Ugoretz of the California Department of Fish and Game at of the guardian Gabrielle Canon.

“Seeing this strange and fascinating fish is a testament to the diversity of marine life lurking beneath the water’s surface in California’s MPAs and as scientists continue to learn more about these deep-sea creatures. It is important to reflect on how much there is left to learn from our wonderful ocean,” Crystal Cove State Park wrote in its Facebook post.

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