Hairy anglerfish's last meal revealed

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A micro-CT scan of a rare hairy anglerfish in the Museum’s collections has solved the puzzle of its expanded stomach.

Hairy anglerfish specimen

The hairy anglerfish specimen.

Mysterious species

Caulophryne pelagica lives at depths of around 2,500 metres and gets its common name from its covering of long sensory filaments. Very little else is known about this bizarre deep-sea fish, including what it eats.

This specimen has been in the Museum’s collection for 13 years after it was caught near the Cape Verde Islands. It is the largest of only 17 known specimens in the world, with a huge bulging stomach.

3D model

Now, Museum researchers have created a 3D model of the specimen to discover the content of its stomach. Watch the video above to find out more.

The Museum’s 18cm-long hairy anglerfish is female. Males are much smaller, around 1cm long, and attach themselves to females with their teeth. They then become parasitic and feed off the female’s blood.  

Once attached, many of the male's organs degenerate but the testes remain in full working order, ready to fertilise the female’s eggs. The Museum’s specimen has no mate attached.

Attracting prey

Anglerfish use a long fin ray with a fleshy growth at the end that acts as a lure to attract prey close to their jaws.

Unlike most anglerfish species, the hairy anglerfish’s lure doesn’t glow in the dark, suggesting it doesn’t need light to attract its prey.

Anglerfish also have sharp teeth on their jaw, upper mouth and throat that point inwards. This allows them to grip prey tightly and move it quickly into its stomach, which expands easily.

Because the fish live at depths where food is scarce, they have evolved to be able to swallow prey even longer than themselves.

You can look inside this incredible creature from the deep on the Museum’s Inside Explorer Table.

Discover other unusual deep-sea fishes