The anglerfish are fish of the teleost order Lophiiformes. They are bony fish named for their characteristic mode of predation, in which a modified luminescent fin ray (the esca or illicium) acts as a lure for other fish. The luminescence comes from symbiotic bacteria, which are thought to be acquired from seawater, that dwell in and around the esca.
Some anglerfish are notable for extreme sexual dimorphism and sexual symbiosis of the small male with the much larger female, seen in the suborder Ceratiidae, the deep sea anglerfish. In these species, males may be several orders of magnitude smaller than females.
Anglerfish occur worldwide. Some are pelagic (dwelling away from the sea floor), while others are benthic (dwelling close to the sea floor). Some live in the deep sea (such as the Ceratiidae), while others on the continental shelf, such as the frogfishes and the Lophiidae (monkfish or goosefish). Pelagic forms are most often laterally compressed, whereas the benthic forms are often extremely dorsoventrally compressed (depressed), often with large upward-pointing mouths.
The name "Anglerfish" comes from the species' unique predation method. Anglerfish usually have at least one filament growing from the middle of the head, called a fish tail. The star anise is the first three separated and modified spines of the front dorsal fin. In most anglerfish species, the longest filament is the first. The first thorn protrudes above the fish's eyes, ends in irregular growth of flesh, and can move in all directions. The anglerfish can swing the esca to make it look like a prey, which lures the anglerfish’s prey close enough for the anglerfish to swallow them whole. Some of the deep-sea anglerfish’s deep-sea areas also illuminate their escas to attract prey.
Because anglerfish are opportunistic foragers, they display a series of preferred prey, with extreme sizes of fish, and at the same time showing higher selectivity for certain prey. A study of the stomach contents of linefin anglerfish on the Pacific coast of Central America found that these fish mainly eat two types of benthic prey: crustaceans and bony fish. The most common prey is panda shrimp. 52% of the examined stomach is empty, which supports the observation that the anglerfish is a low energy consumer.
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