A surfer was strolling along Swami’s Beach in Southern California when he found an odd-looking fish that had washed ashore. It had a gaping mouth full of needle-sharp teeth and a tentacled stalk on its head! The creature turned out to be a Pacific footballfish (Himantolophus sagamius). It’s one of 170 species of deep-sea anglerfish.
Pacific footballfish usually live up to 916 meters (3,000 feet) below the ocean’s surface. At those depths, it’s pitch-black and cold, and food is scarce. The deep sea is called a biological desert, says Ted Pietsch, an evolutionary biologist and anglerfish expert at the University of Washington. But anglerfish have evolved a helpful survival tool: a built-in fishing rod.