The mating behavior of ceratioid anglerfish is unusual, to say the least. The male zeroes in on the much larger female when a bioluminescent appendage on her body, called a lure, sends out pheromones. It's love at first scent. The male proceeds to bite the female and doesn't let go. Eventually, his mouth fuses with her body, and they spend the rest of their lives attached -- with the female sharing her blood, and the male supplying sperm. It’s called sexual parasitism, or the deep sea version of “til death do us part.”
It's not you, it's me:
- There are more than 300 anglerfish species, but only 25 or so use sexual parasitism to reproduce. The little male looks like a different creature entirely, lacking the female’s enormous jaws and distinctive biological lure.
- Male ceratioid anglerfish don’t hunt; they only exist to attach to females. In the deep recesses of the sea, mates are scarce -- so only about one percent of males ever find a female. The rest starve to death and never reproduce.
- The male usually bites the female on her belly, and their tissues ultimately fuse together. The male’s eyes and fins atrophy, but he continues to breathe with his own gills.