Rare: a deep-sea footballfish discovered on a beach

Published by Redbran - Thursday, June 6, 2024 - Other Languages: FR, DE, ES, PT
Source: Journal of Fish Biology

The Pacific footballfish (Himantolophus sagamius), a rarely seen deep-sea fish, was recently found dead on the sand of an Oregon beach in the United States. This appearance raises many questions about the circumstances of its death and how it ended up on the beach.

A female Pacific footballfish was recently found dead on a beach in Oregon.
Credit: Seaside Aquarium

The Pacific footballfish (Himantolophus sagamius) belongs to the order Lophiiformes, which includes over 300 species of deep-sea fish. These creatures live up to 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) below the surface and use bioluminescent appendages to attract prey. They are probably found throughout the Pacific Ocean, although their exact distribution remains unknown.

Walkers discovered this strange-looking fish near Cannon Beach. Photos and Facebook posts from the Seaside Aquarium documented the find, but it is unclear whether researchers recovered and studied the body to understand the reasons for its stranding.

Since the first specimen was accidentally collected in 1975, only about thirty footballfish have been observed. The Seaside Aquarium noted that specimens had previously been found in New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Hawaii, Ecuador, Chile, and California, but never before in Oregon.

The footballfish's lures, modified segments of its dorsal fin, house bioluminescent bacteria. Unlike other species, these lures are segmented and have multiple tentacles, possibly allowing for more complex light displays to attract prey.

Image Wikimedia

Footballfish capture their prey in a flash with their sharp teeth and formidable suction mouths. Females, measuring up to 2 feet (60 cm), are much larger than males, an extreme sexual dimorphism where males become parasites living on the females for the rest of their lives.

This strange reproductive strategy helps them survive in the dark depths of the ocean, although how males find females in this darkness remains a mystery.
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