Video captures anglerfish in a sexual hookup

A video still shows a female anglerfish with whiskery fin-rays glowing in the deep-sea dark. The rays may be bioluminescent, or they may be reflecting light from a submersible’s lamps. The male of the species can be seen hanging from the female’s belly. (Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation Photo)

Scientists studying deep-sea anglerfish have long known about the bizarre mismatch between the species’ whiskered females and teeny-tiny males. But they’ve never captured video of live fish mating — until now.

A newly released video, captured by researchers Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen during a five-hour dive in a submersible off the Azores in the mid-Atlantic, documents the sexual hookup for the first time.

Ted Pietsch, a University of Washington professor emeritus of aquatic and fishery sciences and curator emeritus of fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, was stunned by the footage.

“This is a unique and never-before-seen thing,” Pietsch said in a UW news release issued March 22. “It’s so wonderful to have a clear window on something only imagined before this.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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