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Tasseled anglerfish

Rhycherus filamentosus

Description: Tasseled anglerfish resemble a mass of seaweed rolling about the coral reefs. They can be distinguished from other anglerfish by the three extended dorsal fin spines on their heads. The first dorsal spine is modified as a fishing lure to attract prey. The lure consists of the illicium (the spine) and the esca (the bait), and may resemble a worm, crustacean, or small fish. They are mostly bottom-dwelling fish, typically living in coral, up to a depth of 330 feet (100 m) , where they lie in wait for prey. They are able to change their color to match their background. Eyes protrude from the head and have skin flaps. Their thick spines are joined by transparent membranes. In addition to their hairy tassles, their camouflage also includes warts and filaments on their skin, giving them an appearance similar to rough coral.

Size: Most anglerfish of the family Antennariidae stay relatively small, reaching adult lengths of about eight inches (20 cm). Females are considerably larger than males.

Behavior: Anglerfishes do not swim in the conventional way; instead, they “walk” on their pectoral fins or use ‘jet propulsion’ (forcefully expelling water from a small opening generally behind and below the pectoral fins).

Diet: Tasseled anglerfish are carnivores and feed on crabs, fish and even other anglerfish. They use their “lure” to bring fish close to their extremely large mouth and then swallow them whole. Anglerfish can expand their stomach and swallow food that is roughly two thirds their own size.

Communication: Little is known about communication but visual cues are used. Most anglerfish are able to rapidly change color and this is believed to communicate their mood.

Reproduction: Several males usually surround a female. After she selects a mate, the eggs are rapidly released, each having filaments that adhere to rocks. The female fans them vigorously in order to spread them out, while the male releases sperm. The female then completely covers the eggs with her side and guards them until they hatch and settle in crevices on the bottom.

Habitat/range: The Tasseled anglerfish is commonly found in the Southwest Pacific; endemic to Australia. It is often found living in rocky reefs covered with marine algae.

Status: The Tasseled anglerfish is currently not threatened and is not listed on the IUCN Red List.