Anglerfish mating looks like deep-sea nightmare in rare video

Watch the first-ever footage of anglerfish engaged in their violently gruesome mating ritual. "It was really a shocker for me," one scientist says of the footage.

Bonnie Burton profile photo
Bonnie Burton profile photo
Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

Anglerfish aren't the prettiest creatures. Their large heads, beady little eyes, fang-like teeth and long, bioluminescent whisker-like filaments make them look more like space monsters than something dwelling in the deepest part of the sea.

Now, thanks to wildlife filmmakers Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen, you can see the first footage of the Caulophryne jordani species engaged in their bizarre mating ritual. 

The husband-wife team was traveling near Portugal's Azores Islands on behalf of the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation research group when they filmed their video at depth of 2,600 feet (about 792 meters) back in August 2016. It was released to the public for the first time Thursday.

The footage shows a male and female anglerfish performing what biologists refer to as "sexual parasitism." This is when a male anglerfish bites onto the underbelly of the female fish, permanently fusing with her tissue. 

The male gets nutrients from the female's circulatory system while the female is rewarded with sperm from the male during her spawning cycle.

The Jakobsens sent their footage to Ted Pietsch, a professor emeritus in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at University of Washington in Seattle. 

Considering that most of what scientists know of anglerfish comes from dead specimens, this is quite the discovery, as Pietsch confirmed after seeing the video. 

"I've been studying these [animals] for most of my life and I've never seen anything like it," Pietsch told Science Magazine, which first shared the footage. "You can see how rare and important this discovery is. It was really a shocker for me."

The remarkable footage is a treat for scientists (and marine-biology enthusiasts) who've never before seen anglerfish going at it in their natural environment. And yes, the video is safe for work. 

Bizarre sea creatures pose in pictures

See all photos