Although anglerfish mating rituals have never been captured on video, scientists have finally managed the feat around the Azores Island in Portugal. Details about the mating ritual of anglerfish have been known in the past, but none of the behaviors have ever been observed before this footage was captured.
Most scientists do not get to observe anglerfish in their natural habitat.
Science Magazine released the rare first footage capturing the mating of anglerfish. Though anglerfish are known for their bioluminescent lights and ugly appearance, scientists have studied a lot of dead specimens that have been brought to the surface. Anglerfish mating habits have been a mystery to scientists before the capture of the video.
The female anglerfish is the much larger of two fish, with its famous appearance of large teeth and lure at the top of its head. Male anglerfish are tiny compared to the female, and they appear to look like an appendage of the female during the mating ritual.
In the video showing the mating ritual, the anglerfish are on camera while the mating is already in progress. Besides the lure protruding from the top of the female's head, it also releases many different illuminated whisker-like appendages from around its body. Before the video, scientists weren't aware that the anglerfish was capable of making such a display.
Carefully examining the female's stomach, the small male can be seen attached to her. This mating can be a one-sided ritual, with the male attached to the female. The male fertilizes the female anglerfish and becomes absorbed with her body, including the female's circulatory system. This is how the male fish gains nutrients from the female.
The male is still able to move around after it has been absorbed by the female.
Prior to the video, most anglerfish that have been studied were dead specimens. They almost never survive the journey to the surface. Anglerfish would be captured in nets and brought to the surface for study.
Anglerfish live in very deep depths of the sea. There is little light, so there is very little to eat and it is very cold. As a result, they have very little calories to spare. The female in the video can be seen just drifting along the water very slowly.
Even though scientists have been able to identify 160 species of anglerfish, very few videos of live anglerfish exist. To capture the footage of the anglerfish mating, the anglerfish were followed for 25 minutes. It was difficult to capture the footage through the small window of the submersible, and the anglerfish is only around 16 centimeters long.