MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Angler fish (Lophius piscatorius)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

The angler fish grows up to 200 cm in length and is a very distinctive fish, recognizable by having its head and body depressed, a wide mouth, broad head and a fleshy 'lure' at the end of its first dorsal spine, which is used to attract prey. Its colour can be variable but is principally brown or greeny brown with reddish or dark brown mottlings. It always has a white underside. The skin is loose and scaleless and the midline of the body is fringed with leaf like flaps. Lophius piscatorius is a slow moving, bottom dwelling fish most comonly seen half buried and concealed in the sediment.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Lophius piscatorius occurs in coastal waters all around Britain and Ireland. It is predominantly recorded on the west coast of England, Wales and Scotland and the north, south and east coasts of Ireland.

Global distribution

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Habitat

Lophius piscatorius is present in waters from the low intertidal down to depths of 550 m. It is uncommon to see an angler fish in water shallower than 18 m though it may migrate down to as deep as 2000 m in offshore waters in order to spawn. It is found mostly on sandy or muddy bottoms but is also present on shell, gravel and occasionally rocky areas.

Depth range

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Identifying features

  • Large, rounded pectoral fins and approximately equally sized dorsal and anal fins.
  • Broad head and wide mouth with large curved teeth in both jaws.
  • Body dorso-ventrally flattened.
  • Skin loose and scaleless with many fringed flaps mostly around the mid line of the fish.
  • Variable colour but basically brown or greeny brown with reddish or dark brown mottlings and white underside.
  • Fleshy 'lure' at the end of the first dorsal spine.
  • Grows up to 200 cm in length.

Additional information

The angler fish uses its lure to attract prey to within reach. Prey items are usually smaller fish (such as spurdogs, rays, sand eels, sculpins, sea snails, cod, whiting, pouting, haddock, flatfishes) but a range of items have been found in angler fish stomachs including; lobsters, crabs, squids and occasionally seabirds. Lophius piscatorius is otherwise known as monkfish and is an important commercial fish. It can be confused with the angelshark, Squatina squatina, a cartilaginous fish which, is also known as monkfish. Lophius piscatorius is included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for deep-water fish.

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Bibliography

  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  2. FishBase, 2000. FishBase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line] http://www.fishbase.org, 2001-05-03

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  4. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line] http://www.jncc.gov.uk/mermaid

  5. MarLIN (Marine Life Information Network), 2005. SEArchable BEnthic Data (SEABED) Map [on-line]. Data Access Sub-programme, Marine Life Information Network for Britian and Ireland http://www.marlin.ac.uk,

  6. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from: http://www.nbnatlas.org.  Accessed 01 April 2017

  7. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin., http://www.itsligo.ie/biomar/

  8. Wheeler, A., 1969. The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe. London: Macmillan.

  9. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Reeve, A. 2008. Lophius piscatorius Angler fish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/2123

Last Updated: 17/04/2008