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Sea devils
Krøyer's deep sea angler fish, Ceratias holboelli
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Lophiiformes
Suborder: Ceratioidei
Family: Ceratiidae
T. N. Gill, 1861


Female with a parasitic male, preparation at the Saint Petersburg Zoology Museum

Sea devils are deep-sea anglerfish of the family Ceratiidae.[1][2] They are among the most widespread of the anglerfish, found in all oceans from the tropics to the Antarctic.[1][3]

The females are large: females of the largest species, Krøyer's deep sea angler fish, Ceratias holboelli, reach 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) in length. Males, on the other hand, are dwarfed, only 14 centimetres (5.5 in) maximum. When these fish were first studied, the males were mistaken for parasites. Females usually have more than one male attached to them, which is a good example of polyandry.

At birth, tiny male ceratiids already have extremely well-developed olfactory organs that detect scents in the water.[4] The male lives solely to find and mate with a female. They are significantly smaller than a female angler fish, and may have trouble finding food in the deep sea. Furthermore, the growth of the gut may stop in some species, preventing them from feeding at all.[4] This means the male must find a female quickly to prevent death. The sensitive olfactory organs help the male detect the pheromones from female anglerfish.

When the male finds a female, he bites into her skin, and releases an enzyme. The enzyme digests the skin of his mouth and her body, fusing the pair down to the blood-vessel level.[4] The male then slowly wastes away, first losing his digestive organs, then his brain, heart, and eyes, and ends as nothing more than a pair of gonads.[5] The gonads release sperm in response to hormones in the female's bloodstream. This extreme sexual dimorphism makes sure that, when the female is ready to spawn, she has a mate right there.[6] Multiple males can be incorporated into a single female.[7]

Ceratiids are the only animals known to become chimaeras[8] as a normal part of their life-cycle.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Froese, Rainer and Daniel Pauly (eds) 2006. "Ceratiidae" in FishBase
  2. The name comes from the Greek keras, "horn", referring to the bioluminescent lure that projects from the fishes' forehead.
  3. "Anglerfish". National Geographic. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gould, Stephen Jay (1983) [1983]. "1". Hens' teeth and horses' toes. New York: W.W. Norton. p. 30. ISBN 0393017168. ceratioid males develop gigantic nostrils...relative to body size, some ceratioids have larger nasal organs than any other vertebrate
  5. "Anglerfish, Lophius piscatorius". 10 September 2010.
  6. Theodore W. Pietsch (1975). "Precocious sexual parasitism in the deep sea ceratioid anglerfish, Cryptopsaras couesi Gill". Nature. 256 (5512): 38–40. Bibcode:1975Natur.256...38P. doi:10.1038/256038a0. S2CID 4226567. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  7. Theodore W. Pietsch. "Ceratiidae". Tree of Life. Retrieved 3 April 2006.
  8. A chimaera is an animal formed out of two fertilised eggs. A mosaic has genetically different cells derived from one fertilised egg or zygote.