A man walking on a Southern California beach Friday discovered a well-preserved carcass of a bizarre-looking fish that typically resides at depths of 2,000-plus feet.
The extraordinary discovery of what has since been identified as a female Pacific footballfish, a type of anglerfish, was made by Ben Estes at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach.
Images of the 18-inch anglerfish were captured by Estes and Crystal Cove employees, and shared to Facebook on Saturday by Davey’s Locker Sportfishing & Whale Watching.
“It’s been identified as a deep-sea Pacific footballfish, which is a species of anglerfish that normally dwell at depths more than 3,000 ft below the surface,” Davey’s Locker wrote. “It’s one of more than 300 living species of anglerfish from around the world. Though the fish itself is not rare, it is extremely rare to see one this intact along a beach in southern CA.”
Encounters with anglerfish are exceedingly rare because of the extreme, lightless depths at which they reside.
In 2014, scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute captured ROV footage of an anglerfish swimming 2,000 feet below the surface.
Dr. Bruce Robison of MBARI described the anglerfish as being “among the most rarely seen of all deep-sea fishes.” Robison described the footage as first of its kind. The 3.5-inch fish was collected for study.
Most species of anglerfish measure less than 12 inches. They’re called anglerfish because first spine of their dorsal fins, called the illicium, extends outward and contains a phosphorescent bulb intended to lure prey.
They snatch up prey, usually small fish or squid, with long, sharp teeth.
While anglerfish fish are rarely observed, many will find them to look familiar based on a scene in the popular animated movie “Finding Nemo,” in which Marlin and Dory are entranced by the glowing light and narrowly escape capture.
The Pacific footballfish discovered Friday was collected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and it was unclear Saturday where it would end up.
–Images are courtesy of Ben Estes (top) and Crystal Cove State Park