What Makes an Anglerfish?

Theodore W. Pietsch

in Oceanic Anglerfishes

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780520255425
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942554 | DOI:
What Makes an Anglerfish?

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Anglerfishes differ radically from all other fishes. With the first dorsal-fin spine mounted on the snout and modified to serve as a luring apparatus, and gill openings narrowly constricted to form tubelike structures that open posteriorly behind the base of the pectoral fin, they can hardly be confused with anything else. The deep-sea suborder Ceratioidei is by far the largest, most highly derived, and certainly the least known of the five primary lineages of the order, which has come to be called the Lophiiformes. When compared with its less-derived lophiiform relatives, it too is easily distinguished. In fact, a single character complex is sufficient to diagnose the suborder: anglerfishes that display an extreme sexual dimorphism in which the males are dwarfed, reaching only a fraction of the size of the females. Although enough to encompass what is meant by “Ceratioidei,” this single concise statement only begins to convey the enormous morphological uniqueness and diversity found within the group. This chapter provides an overview of this diversity of form, describes in some detail the various characters of biosystematic significance, and demonstrates how they vary, not only among the various taxonomic subunits, but between genders as well. It covers the characters shared by both sexes, characters restricted to females, characters restricted to males, and characters restricted to larvae.

Keywords: anglerfishes; Ceratioidei; Lophiiformes; sexual dimorphism

Chapter.  13194 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aquatic Biology

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