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Goosefish

Lophius sp.

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Strange and ferocious-looking, the Goosefish has fascinated people for centuries. According to legend, its common name derives from the belief that it could swallow a goose whole. Fishermen were often disturbed by the animal when they brought them up in their nets and sometimes referred to them as “sea-devils.”

Several species of goosefish, sometimes called monkfish, exist in the deep sea. They are flattened anglerfishes that lie still on the muddy ocean bottom and ambush their prey. Like other anglerfishes, the head of the Goosefish is enormous in comparison to the rest of the body. It has a wide mouth lined with numerous bands of long, curved teeth. Both the head and body are depressed, giving the fish a flattened profile which enables it to hide on the ocean bottom. The top of the body is dappled to further camouflage it.

The hunting strategy of the Goosefish is to move as little as possible. Instead, the fish will lie on the ocean bottom and use a fleshy spine located on the top of the head to lure in prey. When they attack, Goosefish use their large mouths to snap up other fish and invertebrates and swallow them whole. If the Goosefish needs to relocate, it can use its articulated pectoral and ventral fins to “walk” across the seabed.

Goosefish are harvested in northern Europe and Japan for food.

Range and Habitat

Goosefish have a broad range and can be found throughout the North Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are a deep-sea animal which lives on both muddy and rocky surfaces up to 2,952 feet (900 m) in depth.

Conservation Status

Common.

Photo credit: NOAA.