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Howdy, Weird Gramma here with “WeirdFins,” all about strange stuff in the sea, and brought to you by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Have you heard about the world’s tiniest fish, a deep-sea male anglerfish? It’s only a quarter-inch long, about the size of a pencil eraser! What’s really creepy, though, is that this guy is permanently attached as a parasite on the back of his mate, who’s much, much larger.
Now, deep-sea anglerfish species are all pretty weird, and some species are over three feet long, the size of a three-year old child. But the species we’re talking about is real tiny. Females are only two inches long, with jelly-like bodies and no scales, and look like they’re mostly just one big head. The mouth, though, is gigantic and with fang-like teeth, and on top of the head is a kind of fishing rod that ends in a little flap of flesh. This tiny flap glows with its own, built-in light produced by special bacteria and it looks like a piece of bait when the anglerfish wiggles it. When a fish swims by and is attracted to the wobbling bait—slurp!—Mama Angler’s got her dinner! Which has to feed the male, too, since he’s a parasite.
How did he get that way? Well, female anglers don’t swim around much, so when a young male spots that shiny lure, he latches onto her back with his otherwise useless teeth. After a while, his body fuses with hers and so he’s right there to fertilize the eggs when she sheds them into the sea. Sometimes, there’s even a bunch of these tiny males attached to the same female, but it doesn’t seem to bother her.
You can see pictures of these tiny anglerfishon the National Marine Fisheries Service WeirdFins link at www.nmfs.noaa.gov.