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A Rare Deep Sea Gem Arrives at NHM

A Pacific footballfish, a type of anglerfish that typically lives thousands of feet underwater, and that washed ashore at the beach, is now part of our Ichthyology Collection.

Anglerfish

It was a thrilling day for the scientists (and a wide array of fish fans) in the Ichthyology Department in late May when a very rare specimen made its home at the museum.

"It's one of only about 30 adult female specimens of this species, and having one washed up in this condition is extraordinary," said NHM’s Ichthyology Curator Dr. William Ludt of the extra large anglerfish found on the sand at Crystal Cove State Beach in Newport Beach. 

Here's more of what Dr. Ludt said about this special specimen: 
This is a Pacific Footballfish (Himantolophus sagamius), and she is quite large at about a foot in length. We know that this specimen is a female due to her size and shape, as males don’t ever get close to this size, and while males of other anglerfish families are known to be parasites that latch onto females, that has never been observed in this family. Like all anglerfish, she has a bioluminescent lure (technical term an esca) that is used to attract prey in the pitch-black habitat where she lives between 1,000 and 4,000 feet deep. Strangely, this specimen was found washed up on a beach in pristine condition. We feel very fortunate to add her to our collection! 

Todd Clardy, NHM's Ichthyology Collections Manager, said the museum has only one other anglerfish from California waters, collected in 1983. The only other two specimens include one collected in 1975 from Indonesia from a trawl at 2,700 feet, and another from 1971, collected from a Hawaii trawl at 2,100 feet. Soon after the most recent fish find was brought into the collections room, it was thawed out and the staff started the fixation and preservation process.

There are so many fantastic aspects to this deep-sea dweller—its light organ, its diet, the spikes in its body, and the teeth! Having another in the collection is not just a boon to scientists and Pacific footballfish fans at our museum but also to fish enthusiasts around the planet.

Keep following on social with Todd Clardy and Bill Ludt and stay tuned for more of their angler adventures at NHM!

Anglerfish Slideshow 1

Todd Clardy

While living, glowing bacteria called Photobacterium light up an anglerfish's lure, or esca, to attract unwitting fish in the deep, dark sea.

Anglerfish Slideshow 2

Sally Marquez

Its intimidating teeth are pointed inward to help make sure prey can't escape.

Anglerfish slideshow 3

Sally Marquez

It doesn't just look unappetizing. The bumps on its body are the bases of spines, making the fish difficult to stomach for any would be predators.

1 of 1

While living, glowing bacteria called Photobacterium light up an anglerfish's lure, or esca, to attract unwitting fish in the deep, dark sea.

Todd Clardy

Its intimidating teeth are pointed inward to help make sure prey can't escape.

Sally Marquez

It doesn't just look unappetizing. The bumps on its body are the bases of spines, making the fish difficult to stomach for any would be predators.

Sally Marquez