With its mouth open, revealing a set of pointed black teeth, and a large protruding appendage surrounded by a series of tentacles, the sea creature looked like something out of a horror movie. But, the 18-inch-wide fish, which somehow found its way from the depths of the Pacific to the shores of Newport Beach last Friday, is very real. It is a rare find.
One of approximately 300 species of snuff found all over the world (perhaps better known as the with fangs and bulb-shaped antennae hanging from his head that appeared in Pixar’s Finding Nemo) the Pacific football fish was spotted in Crystal Cove State Park by a bather, Ben Estes. The specimen was even more surprising for its perfect state of preservation.
“I knew it was an unusual find,” Estes told the Guardian of his discovery. He described himself as a lifelong swimmer and fisherman, but said: “I have never seen a fish that look like that.”
“I don’t know if he understood the implications of what he found,” said Jessica Roame, education coordinator for Davey’s Locker Sportfishing & Whale Watching, He said Los Angeles Times of Estes’s Discovery. The organization was one of the first to post photos of the fish on Facebook and Twitter after Estes alerted rangers. “It happens when you walk, you find dead things here and there that just shouldn’t be on the beach,” he added. “The thing about this is that it was almost perfectly intact. Where did it come from so deep down? “
There aren’t many answers to those questions yet, John Ugoretz of the California Department of Fish and Game said in an email. The researchers are happy to get another look at the species, which normally inhabits dark underwater abysses about 3,000 feet from the surface. They rarely recover from the depths.
After it was frozen, California State Park Service officials connected with the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History “in the hope that it can be transferred to their collection,” Ugoretz said. The museum only has three others in its collection, but, Ugoretz added, only one is from California and none are in such good condition.
Although rarely found, monkfish are among the best-known deep-sea creatures. Their thorny teeth, although threatening, serve more to catch than to bite their prey. With deep bites poised to greet any unfortunate creature lured by its striking phosphorescent bulbs, which glow underwater with the help of light-emitting bacteria, sweep away other fish, squid, and crustaceans, which inhabit depths of 2,000-3,300 feet, according to the California Academy of Sciences.
Or at least females do. The males have become “sexual parasites” and are much smaller. After merging with the females, they lose all of their internal organs, including the eyes, and only testicles remain. Forged forever, the male provides sperm in exchange for nutrition.
First one was found in 1833according to an article about the fascinating fish published in 2019 in the New York Times, after one arrived in Greenland. Since then, most of the knowledge gathered about them came from the few dead specimens that somehow ended up on shore. But in recent years, scientists and deep-sea explorers have been able to observe them on their own turf.
On a 2016 underwater expedition, researchers observed a couple procreating for the first time. Captured on tape off the coast of the Azores islands, the female was illuminated by her own bioluminescent whiskers as her tiny companion climbed aboard.
“It was incredible,” Theodore W Pietscha professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle told the New York Times. “They are wonderful and glorious things that need our attention and protection.”