World map showing location of Anglerfish found in My Submarine Ocean Explorations off east coast of the U.S.


There are more than 200 species of anglerfish. Most anglerfish around the world live in the dark depths of the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans. They can survive up to a mile below the surface, although some live in shallow waters, too. They are usually dark gray to dark brown in color and they have very large mouths filled with sharp teeth! Most anglerfish are less than a foot long, but some can be up to 3.3 feet (1 meter) in length.

We are looking at a particular type – “DEEP SEA ANGLERFISH” – which lives deep down in the dark parts of the ocean. The photo is of a female. It has a thin fin-like thing sticking out from her head. It hangs out, just above her mouth like a little fishing pole. That is how this fish got its name: Angler, like a fisherman! It is really the front spine of the dorsal fin.

The tip of this hangs close to its mouth, and it glows like a light bulb! This light comes from special bacteria inside of it. One reason she uses this “luminescent lure” is to attract prey (food for her to eat!). They are drawn to the light. When they get close enough – chomp! The anglerfish snags dinner!

Another reason is to identify herself to other anglerfish, especially the male. The males do not have this special lit-up lure. They rely on the female to catch the food. They are much smaller than the females. To survive, they attach themselves to the female by biting her – and then hanging on!

This fish lives deep down in the ocean where it is dark. This can even be as deep as 1000 to 3,000 meters. (How far down is that? 1000 meters is about 10 football fields long – or roughly a little more than one-half of a mile!) This far down there is no sunlight. It is black like the middle of the night!

So, at these depths, some living things can create their own light, a process called bioluminescence– such as the anglerfish. Can you think of another animal that can create its own light? Maybe you have seen a little bug light up on summer nights? Some people call it a lightning bug; others call it a firefly. A firefly creates its own light, just like the angler fish.