Reproductive biology

Very little is known about the reproductive biology and early life history of most anglerfishes, but it would appear that the early larval stages of all anglerfishes are pelagic, and thus meroplanktonic. One adaptation that does appear to be common to all anglerfishes is the acquisition of sexual dimorphism in the size and structure of the olfactory organs. This appears to be associated with the production of species-specific pheromones by the females, which attract the males during the breeding season. What little else is known about the reproductive biology of these fishes is restricted primarily to the families Lophiidae, Antennariidae, and a few ceratioid families; within these families, knowledge is likewise restricted to very few species.

A warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) near a brown sponge and the lava sand of the Lembeh Strait, near Indonesia. (Photo by Fred Mc-Connaughey/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Early life-history stages have been described for a few of the 25 species of lophiid anglerfishes (Lophius americanus, L. budegassa, and L. piscatorius). Larvae of only four of the 41 antennariid species have been described, but only Antennar-ius striatus and Histrio histrio are reasonably well known.

In the case of all anglerfishes from which eggs have been identified, eggs are released from the female embedded in a long, bouyant, ribbonlike mucoid veil. This is known to reach a length of 39.4 ft (12 m) and a width of 5 ft (1.5 m) and has been estimated to contain more than 1.3 million eggs in one large lophiid anglerfish species (L. americanus). The pigmentation of the embryos imparts a dark hue to the veil, and they are so conspicuous as they float at the surface of the sea that they have long been known to commercial fishermen. In anglerfishes in which the larvae have been identified, the larvae pass through a planktonic stage before becoming either benthic or nektonic (in the case of the midwater ceratioid anglerfishes).

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