The latest recording is only the sixth time that the fish has been caught on camera outside of animated movies. It was filmed on November 17 by Bruce Robinson of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, which has been undertaking filming missions in the area for the past 20 years.
Filming the black seadevil
Using a remotely operated robotic vehicle the team performed what they call a “midwater transect,” which spokeswoman Kim Fulton-Bennett explains as an exercise in which “we ‘fly’ the robot through the water at a series of different depths (10 minutes at each depth), and count all the different types of animals we see.”
The robot, known as Doc Ricketts, filmed the fish at a depth of 1,900 feet in the Monterey Canyon, which scientists claim is the first time it has been filmed in its habitat. It is certainly a huge find for the researchers, even though the fish measures only 9 centimeters in length.
Why so hard to find?
Anglerfish are some of the most rarely seen deep-sea fishes. Despite their small size, a flexible stomach allows them to eat large prey, which they lure in using a light mounted on a ‘fishing-pole’ structure attached to its head. They lack any great vision and instead use feelers to interpret their environment. When they sense prey nearby they inhale it before trapping it behind their sharp teeth, with this apparatus only being found in the females of the species.
This differentiation leads to a bizarre mating ritual with the relatively smaller males latching on to females, from whom they receive hormones in order to survive during the mating process. If they are not successful in finding a female, their lack of ability to eat means that they will die.
Given the depth at which they live it seems likely that the majority of human encounters with the black seadevil will come through the medium of film, which for those of us that aren’t marine biologists will be no great shame.