A deep-sea fish that marine life experts believe is a Pacific Football Fish — a menacing-looking creature with prickly skin and teeth as sharp as glass shards — was spotted earlier this month on the shores of an Orange County beach.
Officials at Crystal Cove State Park, which is located north of Laguna Beach, said the fish was found in the park’s marine protected area. How it arrived on the shores is quite the mystery; these fish, according to the California Academy of Sciences, prefer to be at least 2,000 feet below the water’s surface. In the depths of the sea, where sunlight doesn’t penetrate, they can dine in the dark on fish, squid and crustaceans. The Pacific Football Fish, a type of anglerfish, can swallow prey the size of its own body in a gulp.
“To see an actual angler fish intact is very rare and it is unknown how or why the fish ended up on the shore,” says a Facebook post from Crystal Cove.
The post goes on to say that seeing this strange and fascinating fish is a testament to the diversity of marine life lurking below the water’s surface in California’s Marine Protected Areas and it’s important to reflect on how much is still to be learned from the ocean.
The body of the fish is expected to end up with a research or educational organization, according to ABC 30, and is being held by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Crystal Cove says the fish that washed up on its shores is a female because it possessed a long stalk on the head with bioluminescent tips that help lure prey. Plus the 18-inch size was a giveaway: The female’s globular body can reach lengths of 24 inches, but males only grow to be about an inch long. Their sole purpose is to find a female to help her reproduce.
If the fish looks somewhat familiar, you may have seen a lookalike on “Finding Nemo.” BBC News points out that the Pacific Football Fish discovered on Crystal Coves looks a lot like the angry-looking angler that Dory and Marlin come across in the movie.