Ladies I Love: C is for Ceratiidae…or “warty sea devils” to you and me

So cute, right?

Ladies and gentlemen…for today’s A to Z Challenge “C”-related post, I give to you our first non-human, but very real, Ladies I Love: the female warty sea devil!  Oh, come on – I’m a fish biologist – you can’t tell me you weren’t expecting this, can you???  Well, since it’s my blog, and my Ladies I Love theme, I can do what I like.  And what I’d like is for YOU to learn something about the deep-sea anglerfishes of the family Ceratiidae, or the warty sea devils!  This is no ordinary family of fish, you understand.  Anglerfish on their own are very interesting; surely you’ve seen them before (you know, from your nightmares, or from this scene in Finding Nemo).  Their name comes from an appendage that extends from their head to out in front of them, with a bioluminescent bulb dangling from the end, acting very much like a lure (making the fish itself an angler).  Smaller fish are attracted to the light (“ooh – what can that be down here in the darkness?  I must investigate…”) and then CHOMP!  The anglerfish takes its prey (clever girl!).

Triplewart Sea Devil – um, maybe not so cute.

But to be more specific, sea devils, and warty sea devils in particular, are quite interesting for one primary reason and two words: sexual parasitism (ok, I can feel your eyes glazing over, but this gets better – I promise).  There’s a great amount of sexual dimorphism in anglerfish – that is, females and males physically vary quite a bit from each other .  The female is often quite large compared to the male, and they’re not very common, either.  You’d think that these two would never actually even find each other, hook up and create new cute(?!?) little baby warty sea devils, but here’s where it gets interesting.  The male has either very good eyes or a strong sense of smell that alerts him to the presence of a female.  As soon as he nears her, he grabs onto her with his mouth, at which point enzymes immediately fuse the male’s mouth to the female’s body.  Their circulatory systems soon merge, and the male basically lives a parasitic life, with its organs dissolving away until he becomes no more than a sack of gonads that is ready to provide sperm when the female wants to reproduce.  Crazy, huh?  What’s also unique is that these fish are genetic chimera (one organism having more than one genetically distinct set of cells, in this case, cells from both the male and female), and that the chimera is a required part of its life-cycle.

Want to learn more about the anglerfish?  Here’s a “somewhat educational but mostly entertaining” video about the anglerfish, NOT narrated by Morgan Freeman:

And finally, this cartoon lovingly drawn by The Oatmeal (click here for the full strip).  Oh, I love the Oatmeal.  And he definitely loves my anglerfish lady.  And you should too!

20 thoughts on “Ladies I Love: C is for Ceratiidae…or “warty sea devils” to you and me

    • Marine biology is soooo interesting! I work mostly with threatened and endangered freshwater fish (like certain kinds of trout), but I have a love for the marine environment. One of my absolute favorite things to do is go tidepooling – it’s like each little tidepool has secrets for you to find! Best wishes for your son’s career, and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  1. What a Clever Choice for C!! I get giddy when I have to pronounce a new word – the longer and more complex, the better. Reading this reminded me of salty old women or the Purple Hat Society – feisty warty older women who don’t give a “hang” what others think because we don’t have time left to waste worrying about those things. On a serious note, reading the part about how the male dissolves into nothing more than gonads made me think (as I often do) about the economic fate of young males in societies around the world. The mideastern countries offer little future to their younger generations (men or repressed women), and our own African-American male population appears on a path to self-destruction. We’ve got to find a way to encourage their healthy, productive participation beyond their gonads!

    • Ahhhh – thanks so much for the thoughtful comment, Sammy. I too agree that we need to start paying more attention to the social plights many in our society are facing. Biologically speaking, very few males are needed to perpetuate a species…but this is kind of funny when I think about women’s inequality issues around the world. At the same time, our society sure thinks it’s easy to close the door and turn the lock on entire groups of men, as you mentioned. It makes me really angry how we disrespect life and the individual values of people in general. Anyway, I digress. I appreciate you stopping by and *thinking* about how maybe our warty sea devils are, in some ways, not terribly different from ourselves! 🙂

      • It has been a fascinating part of this bloghop to see how one topic or word triggers different thoughts, reactions and directions for readers. I am enjoying every aspect of A to Z except having to be tied to the computer to do it! Yin and yang.

        • I totally understand! I have so many great ideas for posts just because of associations triggered by all the posts I’ve been reading. But this is all very distracting from work – I could spend all day reading and writing for the A to Z Challenge! 😀

  2. Woohoo! That is one badass fish!

    I’m writing curriculum for the outdoor environmental field day I run for my girls’ schools. (It’s a pto project and I’m a committee of one-long story) So this year I chose animal adaptations as the theme. Mu Urchins, so helpful in their ways, want to make up games for me to use. My youngest (6) was so stoked about some angler fish she saw in Ranger Rick that she could barely contain herself when describing a game she made up where the kids wear headbands with something attached on the end like an angler fish, except its stuff that kids want. And when they come to get it, the angler fish person tags them.

    Ok. I admit, this lost a lot of humor in the translation, but I’ve already spent this much time typing it that I refuse to delete it. Suffice it to say, you kinda had to be there.

    But still, awesome post!!!

    • I totally want to see pictures of kids playing the angler fish game with headbands and stuff dangling off of them!!! That would make my week. Thanks for the smile! 😀

  3. I love her too! How did I not know about this?!? All the strong women I know are so proud of other creatures that rule their species or genus but I have never heard of the big, bad warty sea devil. I am calling my step-mother right now!!

    • She’s a good one to brag about! She’s all business too – she doesn’t have time for those silly males, and simply takes what she needs! Ha! Seriously, men are great, and I hope my posts don’t come off as too terribly sexist. I just think that female warty sea devils are pretty badass! 😀

    • Ha! Isn’t the video great? He does a whole “True Facts about the __________” and they are all hilarious. The praying mantis is a good one, one of my favorites! Thanks for stopping by! 😀

    • Thanks! Yes, there are many fascinating things happening in the dark depths of the ocean deep…we have so much to discover! Thanks for stopping by! 😀

  4. love it, loves the mating(what a great plan that is), loved the film and the narrator even if it was not morgan freeman, I have falling in love with an ugly fish.

    • Thank you, Cecilia! There are a lot of ugly fish out there to love…they may not be furry or cute, but they have some amazing adaptations! Thanks for stopping by and reading! 😀

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