A mysterious deep-sea creature, described as a dark and eerie fish with an elongated protrusion on its head, recently appeared on the sands of a Southern Californian beach. This sighting, reported on October 17 by officials at Crystal Cove State Park, marks the second instance of such an occurrence in recent times.
The creature has been identified as the Pacific footballfish (Himantolophus sagamius), a type of anglerfish that typically inhabits the Pacific Ocean's shadowy depths, ranging between 600 to 1,000 meters beneath the surface. This event echoes a similar discovery made in May 2021 when a beachgoer stumbled upon a member of the same species along the park's coastline.
The officials of Crystal Cove State Park expressed their fascination in a social media update, noting the rarity of encountering such an intact anglerfish specimen and the mystery surrounding its beaching. They described the fish's formidable, glass-like transparent teeth and its ability to engulf prey as substantial as itself with its sizable mouth.
According to the California Academy of Sciences, there are over 300 anglerfish species in the deep sea globally. The females, which can reach up to 61 centimeters in length, dwarf their male counterparts by nearly tenfold. Males have evolved to become essentially symbiotic mates, attaching themselves to females for a lifetime of providing sperm.
As noted by park officials, only the females boast the characteristic head stalk topped with a light-emitting lure, designed to attract unsuspecting prey. In some species, males fuse completely with the females, losing all physical traits except their reproductive organs.
The park's seasonal lifeguard found the deceased anglerfish at Moro Beach near their base, coincidentally aligning with the ominous date of Friday the 13th. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife took the fish for further study.
The fish measured around 36 cm from the tip of its mouth to the end of its tail fin, as per Michelle Horeczko, a senior environmental scientist supervisor. With fewer than 30 recorded specimens of this species, the find promises to shed light on these elusive creatures.
Following scientific evaluation, the fish was transferred to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles for preservation and research, joining the previously found footballfish.
The cause of this anglerfish's beaching remains an enigma, but park officials celebrated the incident as a showcase of the diverse and extraordinary marine life dwelling within California's protected marine areas.