Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes,  Order Lophiiformes (Anglerfishes) > Ceratiidae (Seadevils)

Cryptopsaras couesii  Warty Sea Devils

DISTRIBUTION: Deep tropical and subtropical oceans.

HABITAT: Deep ocean below 300 m (984 ft).

APPEARANCE:  The female triplewart sea devil is among the largest of the deepsea anglerfishes, reaching up to 1.5 m (5 ft) and weighing 10 kg (22 lb). Anglerfishes are characterized by a long filament, a modified first spine of the anterior dorsal fin, that extends over the eyes and is used to lure prey. In the ceratoid families, only the female  possesses  this lure. The male has no lure, is born small, and  remains so, weighing only about 150 g (5 oz). Most ceratoid anglerfishes have a bioluminescent lure; C. couesii is unusual in being luminescent over most of its body.

 DIET: Primarily on small cephalopods as well as fish and crustaceans. With their huge mouths and pliable bodies, anglerfishes are able to swallow prey up to twice their size.

 REPRODUCTION/DEVELOPMENT: As scientists began to explore the deep sea, they caught anglerfish and were surprised that all were females with what appeared to be parasites attached. More observation and experimentation revealed  that these “parasites” were actually male anglerfish of the same species.

 The male is equipped with a highly developed sense of smell, especially sensitive to pheromones emitted by the female. Triplewart sea devil males have large, forward-facing eyes, and are thought to rely both on vision and smell for their search and identification of a conspecific female. The male locates a female, attaches to her with a set of pincher-like teeth at the tip of his jaw. In the case of C. couesii and some other species, the epidermal tissues of male and female soon fuse and their circulatory systems unite. Shortly after attachment, the male organs atrophy; digestive organs, brain, heart, eyes are lost and little more than gonads remain.

 An extreme example of sexual dimorphism, the male may be as much as 30 times smaller than the female. Able to sense when the female is ready to spawn by detection of hormones in her bloodstream, he releases sperm as she releases eggs. A C. couesii female may have as many as eight males attached to various parts of her body.