The twilight zone is full of mysteries. Read on to find out about a fish that inhabits the deepest and darkest zones in an ocean.
The Atlantic footballfish is a deep-sea fish belonging to the Himantolophidae family. Its scientific name Himantolophus groenlandicus was given by Johannes Christopher Hagemann Reinhardt, a Norwegian zoologist. He discovered the species in 1833 ashore Greenland, he described the fish as almost perfectly spherical. Thus, the name footballfish. Ted Pietsch, a systematist, and evolutionary biologist wrote in his book, 'Oceanic Anglerfishes', that Himantolophus groenlandicus was the first of its species known to man. Today, because of various research and studies conducted each year, over 160 species of anglerfish are known. The Himantolophus is a type of anglerfish found in tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters within the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. They live 3,000 ft (914 m) deep underwater.
Football fish are known for their fishing rod or lure that glows in the twilight zone. The light produced by the lure is blue and very faint. Some other species of anglerfish, such as Phyllorhinichthys balushkini, have elaborate lures sticking out from their head, they can be compared to fiber optic cables. Cryptopsaras couesii are covered with glowing spots called caruncles.
The Atlantic footballfish, like its name suggests, is a fish.
What class of animal does a Atlantic football fish belong to?
The Atlantic footballfish belongs to the Animalia kingdom, the Chordata phylum, and the Lophiiformes order.
How many Atlantic football fish are there in the world?
The accurate population size of the species is unknown.
Where does an Atlantic football fish live?
The Atlantic footballfish is mostly endemic to the Atlantic ocean. Some of them can be found in the Pacific and the Indian ocean as well.
What is an Atlantic football fish's habitat?
The Atlantic footballfish (Himantolophus groenlandicus) lives 3,000 ft (914 m) deep in the ocean, where natural light or sunlight does not reach. It prefers living in temperate waters and can be found in tropical regions.
Who do Atlantic football fish live with?
These fish are solitary in nature but when a parasitic male attaches himself to a female they are inseparable. A single female hosts several parasitic males.
How long does an Atlantic football fish live?
Females can live up to 30 years, males have a shorter lifespan and soon die after mating.
How do they reproduce?
Atlantic footballfish (Himantolophus groenlandicus) reproduce via sexual reproduction, the mating process between these fishes is unique and one of a kind. Males look for females by tracking and following the species-specific pheromone left behind by them. The male angler fish transitions or converts into a parasite when it reaches sexual maturity. After finding a suitable female, the male uses its hook-shaped teeth to attach itself to a female body. Once the parasitic male attach themselves to the female, they merge until their tissues, blood vessels and gonads are inseparable or until the two fish fuse and eventually become one; males do so because they do not have teeth sharp enough to hunt, nor the body to move around efficiently, they're not predatory and cannot survive on their own. Females display a phosphorescent bulb or esca on top of their heads, which attracts prey and lures male species by flashing a soft glowy light. Single female hosts several parasitic males on her body, the highest number of parasites found attached to a female is 12. Males receive nourishment directly from the females' blood and act as sperm banks or sperm factories for the rest of their lives. This entire process is marvelous but very strange and unsettling at the same time. In some rare cases, males detach themselves to find a new, or perhaps, better host. If and when this happens, females immediately release their eggs into the water, followed by males releasing their sperm, and so the process of external fertilization takes place.
What is their conservation status?
The IUNC Red List of Threatened Species has classified Atlantic footballfish (Himantolophus groenlandicus) as species of Least Concern.
But that does not mean these fish face no threats, besides larger predators, factors such as deep-sea mining and climate change pose as serious threats to the species. Deep-sea mining pollutes the waters and causes harm to many organisms living there. Climate change increases the oceans' stratification, meaning- sufficient oxygen from the surface does not reach and mix into the deep waters inhabited by these fish.
Atlantic Football Fish Fun Facts
What do Atlantic football fish look like?
An Atlantic footballfish (Himantolophus groenlandicus) is a round-spherical-shaped deep-sea fish, it is brown-rust colored, covered with spots known as bucklers and the body is almost transparent. Females are quite large and bigger than any male fish of this species and can grow up to 24 in (60 cm) in length. They have an enormous mouth, subcutaneous-equal jaws that display rows of close-set depressible and retorse teeth. The vomerine teeth are absent in a female footballfish. On its head, slightly above the eyes is the illicium- commonly known as the fishing rod and at its end is a bioluminescent bulb called esca or the fishs' lure. The lure glows deep in the ocean because of the luminescent bacteria present in the esca, it is used for attracting prey in the pitch-black depths of the ocean. The lure does not glow under natural light. The area near its chin is covered with sensitive papillae, their functions are similar to human tastebuds. A female footballfish has one dorsal spine, five to six dorsal soft rays, four anal soft rays, moderately pigmented pectoral fins, the pectoral fins have 14 - 18 rays. Among many other anglerfish species, males are often 10 times smaller than the females. Adult males grow up to 1.5 in (4 cm) in length.
How cute are they?
Atlantic footballfish is not cute at all, females have an oversized head, pointy teeth that don't fit into their mouth, slimy and wrinkled scales, their body is covered with spines. These fish are even called nightmare creatures because of their scary appearance.
How do they communicate?
Expect the use of their lure or the fishing rod, communication between this species has not been researched enough to provide information exclusive only to them. They use the dim light from the esca to attract prey and other footballfishes.
How big is an Atlantic football fish ?
The male Atlantic football fish grows up to 1.5 in (4 cm) in length, and the female can grow up to a maximum length of 24 in (60 cm).
A female due to its round, large, and wide body cannot swim fast. Males, however, are fast and good swimmers.
How much does an Atlantic football fish weigh?
A full-grown female footballfish weighs around 24 lb (11 kg).
What are the male and female names of the species?
They are simply called male and female Atlantic football fish.
What would you call a baby Atlantic football fish?
A baby Atlantic football fish is known as larvae.
What do they eat?
Football fish are ambush predators, they float in the dark and until their prey comes close enough to be sucked in and eaten. So far below the surface, not many fish or creatures are found, and so food is scarce. Therefore, these fish eat anything that fits within their mouth, such as squid, crustaceans, shrimp, and other football fish as well.
Predators of footballfish include sperm whales and deep-sea sharks.
Are they dangerous?
These fish look scary but are not dangerous to humans.
Would they make a good pet?
Keeping them as pets is almost impossible as these fish are rarely seen by humans on the surface level. Capturing them requires diving into the twilight zone, which is not easy to navigate as it's pitch-black down there. Even if you do get your hands on a football fish, we wouldn't recommend having them as pets, because the species is not researched enough.
Did you know...
There are 22 species belonging to the Hemantolophus genus.
Apparently, a female football fish receives approximately 10 million eggs in one extension.
The biggest angler fish is called Ceratiidae, and it can grow up to 3.9 ft (1.2 m) in length!
Are angler fish and football fish the same?
Yes, footballfish are a species of angler fish. The Atlantic football fish is just a name given to the species because it inhabits the Atlantic Ocean.
Can you eat football fish?
Yes! A football fish is edible despite its unpleasant appearance. It's a staple food in many Asian countries, such as in South Korea.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these pacific salmon facts and suckerfish facts pages.
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