Researchers say they've discovered a new and bizarre species of fish in the deepest ocean waters where sunlight never penetrates, a region home to some of the world's strangest-looking sea creatures.

Looking like something from a Hollywood movie about mutant aliens, the new species of ceratioid anglerfish was found in the Gulf of Mexico, in waters between 3,200 and 4,900 feet deep.

Scientists refer to that as the "midnight zone," where no sunlight reaches and the only light source is the bioluminescence of many marine species found living there.

The new species in the genus Lasiognathus Regan is what is commonly called an anglerfish, complete with a pole-like appendage growing from the top of its head.

"This fish dangles the appendage until an unsuspecting fish swims up thinking they found a meal, only to quickly learn that they are, in fact, a meal themselves," the researchers from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said.

NSU researcher Tracey Sutton worked with University of Washington scientist Theodore Pietch to formally describe the new species in a study published in the journal Copeia, which carries research on fishes, reptiles and amphibians.

The unusual natural "fishing rod" is found on a number of species of ceratioid anglerfish, and scientists say they believe it probably evolved from a dorsal fin.

Three examples of the new species were found in the northern Gulf of Mexico, in deep waters where the pressure is a crushing 2,200 pounds per square inch.

Because no marine plants can grow in those dark depths, the competition for other sources of food is intense, leading to various evolutionary strategies like the anglerfishes' fishing tackle, scientists say.

The discovery of the new species is another example of just how much life remains unknown in the vast stretches of the world's oceans, Sutton says.

"Every time we go out on a deep-sea research excursion there's a good chance we'll see something we've never seen before — the life at these depths is really amazing," he says.

Unlike previously discovered species of anglerfish, which are usually round and rather stout, the new species appears thin, almost gaunt.

The specimens will be kept in the Ichthyology Collection at the University of Washington, home to the world's largest collection of deep-sea anglerfish.

"Finding this new species reinforces the notion that our inventory of life in the vast ocean interior is far from complete," says Sutton.

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