The black-hued creature with its gaping mouth lay in the sand on the shores of the Crystal Cove State Park marine reserve in Laguna Beach last Friday. The park shared pictures of the fish on social media and identified it as the most likely Pacific soccer fish.
“It is very rare to see a real anglerfish intact and it is not known how or why the fish ended up on the bank,” the Facebook post said.
The Pacific Football Fish is one of more than 200 species of anglerfish worldwide, according to California State Parks, and is normally found in the dark depths of the ocean. The creature’s teeth are sharp and pointy like broken glass, and its “large mouth is capable of sucking up and swallowing prey the size of its own body”.
Because of the size of the creature and the protruding stem on the top of its head, California State Parks said this was a woman.
“Only women have a long stem on their head with bioluminescent tips that act as bait to lure prey in the darkness of waters up to 3,000 feet deep!” Said Crystal Cove State Park’s contribution.
They added that women can get up to 24 inches long while men only get about an inch long. The only purpose of the male fish is to help a woman reproduce, the post said.
“Men cling to the female with their teeth and become ‘sexual parasites’ that eventually combine with the female until nothing is left of their shape other than their testicles for reproduction,” the post said.
The body of the fish is held by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, according to CNN subsidiary KFSN. It is expected to be studied for research and educational purposes.
“Seeing this strange and fascinating fish is testament to the diversity of marine life that lurks beneath the surface …” read the Crystal Cove State Park post. “… and as scientists learn more and more about these deep-sea creatures, it is important to think about how much remains to be learned from our wonderful ocean.”