In the last century, humans have only recognized 31 different species of footballfish. This is due to the fact that these stealthy anglerfish travel at depths of up to 3,300 feet, illuminating their path with bioluminescent bulbs dangling from their heads.
Three of these odd fish have washed up in California this year alone. Scientists are ecstatic to be able to examine these rare creatures, but they are perplexed as to why these fish are suddenly rising to the top. What exactly are Pacific footballfish? Why are they now appearing in California?
Inside the Pacific Footballfish’s Mysterious Existence
The Pacific footballfish, or Himantolophus sagamius, lives in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Several people have been discovered in New Zealand, Japan, Russia, California, Hawaii, Ecuador, and Chile.
This is because footballfish commonly move at depths ranging from 1,000 to 3,300 feet. Even in complete darkness, a phosphorescent bulb (also known as an esca) on the footballfish’s forehead provides a little amount of light.
Although experts believe the fish are not discriminating eaters, they employ this light to attract prey. Footballfish have evolved to devour everything they can get their hands on because there is often little food in the deep ocean.
They hide in the shadows, waiting for passing fish, squid, or crabs. They then go on the offensive. Footballfish pull their victim into their mouths, where their incredible, needle-sharp teeth rip the helpless aquatic critter to shreds.
Males and Fimales
Females, however, are the only ones who hunt. They are about ten times larger than males and can grow to be three feet long. Male footballfish, according to experts, are “sexual parasites” that mate with females.
Male fish gradually lose their eyes and internal organs. They only use their testicles to attach to female fish and provide her with a regular stream of sperm in exchange for food.
These strange and fascinating deep-sea creatures. They swim so deep that scientists rarely get a chance to thoroughly examine them.
As a result, three footballfish have washed up on Californian beaches, much to the delight of ichthyologists (fish specialists). So, what have scientists discovered? And why are these strange fish also washing up on the beach?
Why Are There So Many Footballfish in California?
A big quantity of footballfish washed up on Californian beaches in 2021. Three were discovered: one washed ashore on Black’s Beach in November, one at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach in May, and one on the San Diego coast in December.
“It’s quite amazing that we’ve got three in the last year and in Southern California alone,” said Ben Frable, manager of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography‘s fish collection.
He went on to describe the discovery as “fortuitous,” noting that “the last time that happened in California, at least that we were aware of, that someone witnessed and communicated to scientists was 20 years ago today.”
No footballfish has washed up in California since 2001.
Creatures from deep
According to Frable, the fish discovered in December was a female around 15 inches long and weighing a whopping five and a half pounds. Frable discovered sand in the fish’s guts, but the fish appeared to be in fair condition overall. However, it appeared like a bird had eaten a chunk of it at some point.
What function does sand serve? The scientific community is divided. Others have been discovered to be hungry.
“We don’t know a lot about this species in general,” said William Ludt, assistant curator of the Natural History Museum’s ichthyology collection, where one of the footballfish was on exhibit.
That motion was seconded by Frable. We don’t know even the most fundamental basics about their lives, he claims. So many questions remain unsolved. That, in my opinion, is what makes studying these creatures that live in deeper waters out out in the open ocean so intriguing.
“We don’t know a lot of fundamental elements about them, such as what they consume and how they reproduce,” the author explains.
Fish specialists in California are ecstatic about the discovery and hope that the specimens will tell something about how these strange critters live. They have no idea why the fish perished or why so many are washing up on the beach right now.
It’s incredibly weird, and it’s the talk of the town among us California ichthyologists. Lundt made a remark.
Frable does not believe that the sudden surge of footballfish is a symptom of something wrong in the ocean’s depths; if it were, he believes that a lot more Pacific footballfish would be washing up on the coast. He has no idea why so many people have washed up on Southern California beaches this year.
Unfortunately, he remarked, “we don’t know why.” There isn’t a lot of information… We’re trying to figure things out and come up with solutions as I communicate with colleagues that study coastal oceanography and anglerfish and other fish.
At the moment, the Pacific footballfish remains a mystery.