A Rare Football Fish With Bioluminescent Lure Has Been Found In Oregon For The Very First Time

A rare Pacific football fish, scientifically named Himantoliphus sagamius, was discovered at Cannon Beach, Oregon, marking a significant first for the state. This deep-sea fish, typically found 2,000 to 3,000 feet below the ocean surface, has only been sighted about 34 times globally over the past century. The Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe confirmed the discovery after beachcombers notified the aquarium. Boothe retrieved the deceased specimen and took photographs to document the finding.

“While a handful of football fish have been recorded in New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Hawaii, Ecuador, Chile, and California, this is the first one reported on the Oregon coast to our knowledge.”

The Pacific football fish is known for its distinctive features, particularly the bioluminescent bulb, or esca, on its forehead. This esca attracts prey in the deep, dark ocean by emitting light through photobacteria it captures. These fish are not selective eaters due to the scarcity of food at such depths, consuming anything that fits into their mouths. Their sharp teeth and large mouths are adapted for this opportunistic feeding behavior.

The fish found at Cannon Beach was identified as a female, larger than its male counterparts, which are significantly smaller and exhibit a parasitic lifestyle. Males attach themselves to females, losing their eyes and internal organs in the process, and become dependent on the females for nutrients. In return, they provide a “steady source of sperm.”. The mechanism by which males locate females in the darkness of the deep sea remains unknown, adding to the mystique of this species.

“Males being 10 times smaller than females, find a female to fuse themselves to. They lose their eyes and internal organs, getting all their nutrients from their female partners,” Boothe added.

“In return, they provide females with a steady source of sperm. How the males find the females in the pitch dark is still unknown.” 

While female Pacific football fish are generally noted for their size and efficiency, the specific specimen found lacked some typical features such as tiny tentacles and rough skin. This discovery adds valuable information to the limited knowledge about the species, contributing to scientific understanding and public interest.

The occurrence of the Pacific football fish on Oregon’s coast is a rare and fascinating event, highlighting the mysteries of deep-sea life and the ongoing need for marine research. With sightings in places like New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Hawaii, Ecuador, Chile, and California, this recent find expands the known range of this elusive species, offering a unique glimpse into the diverse and hidden ecosystems of the ocean depths.

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