Most people wouldn’t call anglerfish pretty, exactly, but the black seadevil is one of the strangest-looking creatures you’ll find anywhere. With dead eyes and a gaping, perpetually frowning maw lined with rows of jagged teeth, it looks like nothing so much as a small, disembodied humanoid head with a glowing orb hanging in front of it. It’s the sort of thing you don’t see often, in part because these creatures don’t come near the surface—they’ve only been photographed six times, and never caught on video.
Well, “never” until this month. When Bruce Robison of California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) spotted a black seadevil 1,900 feet (600m) under the surface and watched it at work, it was a rare treat for marine biologists (and the rest of us):
Like most anglerfish, black seadevils hunt fish the way we generally do: by baiting them. In this very real sense, their faces are deep-sea echoes of the fishermen who have drawn in, and fed on, their kin for millennia—and our faces are echoes of theirs.