Rare Pacific football fish washes up on California beach for third time this year

For the third time this year, a rare deep-sea fish has washed up on a California beach.

the Pacific football fish, one of the largest species of anglerfish, was found on Swami Beach in Encinitas in San Diego County on Dec. 10, CBSLA reported. Rescuers alerted scientists, who took it for study at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“The fact that a few got stranded this year might just be a fluke for us,” said Ben Frable, a ichthyologist and the director of the fish collection at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told the Guardian.

Pacific footballerfish typically live thousands of feet below the ocean and, like other anglerfish, are known to use a bioluminescent bulb that dangles from their heads to attract prey. However, only females use this new technique; male anglerfish attach to their mates and lose all their internal organs, including their eyes. The anglerfish gained fame above the sea in the Pixar film Finding Nemo.

“So if you’ve seen ‘Finding Nemo’, it’s depicted in ‘Finding Nemo’ where Dory sees a very beautiful light, swims towards it, it’s a giant anglerfish, very scary, it almost gets eaten,” said Frable told CBSLA.

According to Scripps, this Pacific footballfish is a mature female at nearly 13 inches long and 5.5 pounds. Only 31 specimens of this fish have been collected, but what is strange is that two of these collections took place in California this year.

In May, one of these rare fish washed up along Crystal Cove State Park and was eventually put on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, CBSLA reported. Another was photographed at Black’s Beach in San Diego County on November 13, but was never recovered.

“Experts have no evidence to theorize why several deep-sea fish have been stranded recently, but are interested in learning more about the specimens that have been collected, as well as any new ones that may be stranded,” said tweeted Scripps.

However, Frable told the Guardian he did not believe the findings were a sign that anything was wrong, because then many more would have died. Instead, he saw the event as a chance to learn more about a rare and unusual species.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about this species in general,” he said. “It’s exactly the kind of thing we want to put on display so people can see it and learn about the world around them and the weird creatures that are in their own backyards.”

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