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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2004

Here’s the Angle on the Anglerfish

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

How would you like to go swimming at night in water so deep that you couldn’t see anything at all? Everything around you was—black! Scary, eh? But what if you had your very own built-in flashlight? Believe it or not, there is a fish that does! The anglerfish gets its name from the fact that it uses what appears to be a “fishing pole” and “lure” to catch its food. Actually, the pole is a special spine that grows from the fish’s head. The anglerfish dangles what appears to be a “light” from the end of its “pole.” When other fish see it, they come to investigate. The anglerfish then opens his mouth and eats them!

What’s going on here? The deeper one goes into the ocean, the less light from the Sun may be seen. Sunlight penetrates the ocean to a depth of around 375 feet. Below that, the water is pitch-black. However, some fish have the ability to make their own light. How?

These fish have special pouches near their eyes, tails, or fins. In the pouches lives a colony of bacteria—which produce chemicals that give off a faint glow; the darker the surroundings, the brighter the glow. Some of these fish have special “shutters” over the pouches. When the fish do not want to be seen, they close these shutters. At other times, the fish open the shutters to produce a glow.

Some scientists think the fish use these “flashlights” to attract fish as food. Other scientists think that the fish use the light to attract a mate so they can reproduce. There may be other reasons for this special “flashlight” that we have not yet discovered.

Amazing! Bacteria that give off light, live inside fish deep within the dark water of the oceans. One organism (bacteria) helps another (fish). This seems odd, doesn’t it? How do you think the anglerfish ever got the idea to grow a spine and dangle a light in order to catch food? He didn’t! His unusual spine was designed by the Creator—God. Just as God planned the anglerfish to be especially suited to the dark places of the ocean, so God made all of His creatures to fit into their own places in this big, fascinating world in which we live.



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