Lophius piscatoriusMonkfish

Geographic Range

Anglerfish, Lophius piscatorius are found in the northern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. They are found along the coast of Greenland and the entirety of Iceland. The northernmost extent of the range is the tip of Norway and continues south along the entirety of the United Kingdom. They continue eastward as far as Turkey and then around the coast of western Africa as far south as Namibia. (Arnold, 2015; Colmenero, et al., 2017; Solmundsson, et al., 2010)


Anglerfish inhabit the ocean at depths of 0-1000m, rarely dropping below the continental slope. This wide range of depths is influenced by fish age and seasonality (water temperatures and prey availability). They lie half-buried in the sediment (sand or mud) as they wait for prey as low as the continental shelf.

The larvae transition from shallow water to living at greater depths. Hislop et al. (2001) state that the post-larval stage for anglerfish is a short pelagic stage and growth is rapid, while Ellis et al. (2012) report a prolonged pelagic existence. Juvenile anglerfish have been seen at depths of 10-500m, but habitat information beyond this is scant. Adults have been observed at depths close to 1000m to spawn. (Colmenero, et al., 2010; Ellis, et al., 2012; Hislop, et al., 2001; Whitehead, et al., 1986)

  • Range depth
    0 to 1000 m
    0.00 to 3280.84 ft

Physical Description

Adult anglerfish typically reach body lengths of 35-60 cm. Female anglerfish live longer and have greater size than males. The mean lengths at sexual maturity was 73 cm for females (at age 14) and 49cm for males (at age 6). A male anglerfish with a length of 200 cm has been reported. An individual with a weight of 57.7kg also has been reported. Adults have scale-less, very thin, flat bodies to help them blend with the sand or mud. These fish also possess a wide mouth with teeth.

Both male and females have a fleshy growth, the illicium, that extends from the ventral region of their head extending towards the anterior of their face and is used as bait to lure their prey.

The eggs of the larvae are buoyant and are in the form of a veil gelatinous ribbon that could be longer than 10m and 25cm wide that is also translucent. The growth rate of young anglerfish was estimated at 13.6mm per year. (Arnold, 2015; Colmenero, et al., 2010; "Database of IGFA angling records until 2001", 2001; Hislop, et al., 2001)

  • Range mass
    57.7 (high) kg
    127.09 (high) lb
  • Range length
    35 to 200 cm
    13.78 to 78.74 in


Male anglerfish testes are mature year-round while female ovaries produce eggs from November to May. A male anglerfish testis is tubular and extends across in a bean shape, located in the dorsal abdomen. As for females, their tubes merge and meet in the middle to form a single flat tube.

The fertilized eggs are buoyant and are in the form of a ribbon that could be more than 10m to 25cm wide. Laurenson (2006) collected a ribbon of >50 fertilized eggs and allowed them to continue growing in a laboratory environment for about a week. The rate of development, moving from "stages 12 to 14" at a temperature of 7 degrees C, was reported as 120 hours. At this pace, it was suggested that eggs can complete their development cycles in 3 weeks. At warmer temperatures, this development rate increased (e.g., 27 hours to complete the same cycles listed above, at 20 degrees C). Eggs size was 2-3mm, on average.

The growth rate of young anglerfish was estimated at 13.6cm per year. In comparing sexual maturity metrics, males mature at a younger age, 6, and smaller total length than females, age 14. Alfonso-Dias and Hislop (1996) report age of maturity as 73.2–98.0 cm for females and 48.9–58.0 for males.

Like most fish, anglerfish likely exhibit indeterminate growth. (Alfonso-Dias and Hislop, 1996; Arnold, 2015; Colmenero, et al., 2010; Duarte, et al., 2001; Laurenson, 2006)


Mating systems in anglerfish are not well-described. Anglerfish spawn at different times, depending on geographic location. Three separate articles list different but overlapping spawning seasons: November-May, January-June, and May-June.

Fertilization, like most fish, is external. Females of this species only mate once a season, but it's unknown if males mate with multiple females. (Fariña, et al., 2008)

Female anglerfish mature at age 14, while males mature at age 6. Because of the age difference, female anglerfish have a greater mass than male anglerfish at maturity. Alfonso-Dias and Hislop (1996) report age of maturity as 73.2–98.0 cm for females and 48.9–58.0 for males.

The breeding season varies by geographic location - three separate articles report differeing but overlapping mating seasons as November to May, January to June, and May to June. Females breed just once per year.

The number of offspring is unknown but the female anglerfish release between 300,000 to 2,800,000 eggs in a long gelatinous string a few meters long. Time to hatching has been estimated at 3 weeks at 7 degrees C, but can be sped up in warm waters.

Given the lack of parental investment beyond spawning, time of independence is immediate. During the breeding season, it was discovered that there was more mature male anglerfish than mature female anglerfish. (Alfonso-Dias and Hislop, 1996; Armstrong, et al., 1992; Duarte, et al., 2001; Laurenson, 2006)

  • Breeding interval
    Female anglerfish breed once a year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season varies, from November to June
  • Range number of offspring
    300,000 to 2,800,000
  • Average time to hatching
    3 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    0 minutes
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    14 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 years

There is be no known reported parental involvement in Lophius piscatorius. The eggs are kept in a protective gelatinous coating that is translucent and may be toxic or distasteful to predators. The coating could also reduce or even eliminate olfactory cues so it does not bring in predators. (Alfonso-Dias and Hislop, 1996; Armstrong, et al., 1992)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Anglerfish females can live up to 25 years in the wild, and males can reach 21 years. These fish are not kept in captivity. (Froese and Pauly, 2018)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    21 to 25 years


A unique trait about anglerfish is their illicium, the growth on their head, that they use to lure their prey. It was also found that anglerfish are more active during the day. They coexist with another species of anglerfish, Lophius budegassa, black anglerfish, which are active at night. It's suspected they hold these different activity cycles to avoid niche overlap.

Species of the genus Lophius have some of the slowest ventilatory cycles in fishes that last more than 90 seconds. They have a large gill chamber, supported by long branchiostegal rays and ending in a siphon-like gill opening positioned underneath and behind the base of the pectoral fin. Lophius do not use their jaw, suspensorium or gill cover during ventilation. When anglerfish are disturbed from the sediment, they have been reported to breathe more rapidly.

Farina et al. (2008) summarized what's known in the genus, and reported that some members of this species can travel long distances. Fore example, a juvenile female anglerfish was recorded to move 876 km. This species can also move vertically at all ages - moving from the substrate to the surface. The reason for this movement is unknown, but it could be for spawning or feeding. They've been known to spawn as deep at 1000m. The newly-hatched young are believed to live a pelagic lifestyle for about 4 months before moving to areas with substrate. (Colmenero, et al., 2010; Farina and Bemis, 2016; Laurenson, 2006)

Home Range

Home ranges have not been reported for anglerfish. They are suspected to move long distances (both as juveniles and adults) for the purposes of spawning, feeding, and following thermal preferences. They are not believed to hold and maintain territories. (Fariña, et al., 2008)

Communication and Perception

Anglerfish have a lateral line system that help them sense their environment through water pressure and vibrations. The lateral line is visible as a line along the middle of their body. Anglerfish also have chemosensory structures such as taste buds, free nerve endings and solitary chemosensory cells, which resemble taste buds.

With their illicium that is used as a lure, these fish are sit-and-wait-predators. Because they move very little, they are often captured with empty stomachs. So, it's suspected that they depend on tactile responses to feed, if the lure functions successfully. (Fariña, et al., 2008; Kotrschal, 1991; Linzey, 2012)

  • Communication Channels
  • visual

Food Habits

Anglerfish use a sit-and-wait strategy for feeding. Their illicium, that extends from their head, is used to lure their prey. Like other members of the family, feeding efforts are size-specific, with larger anglerfish consuming larger prey. Generally, the young focus on consuming invertebrates (especially crustaceans and cephalopods). As the juveniles age, they switch from invertebrates to eating fish, comsumed opportunistically.

Farina et al. (2008) summarized the main diets of larger, adult anglerfish across their range: Norway pout (Trisopterus esmarkii) and blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) are main prey in European waters; whiting (Merlangius merlangus) and Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in the Irish Sea; lesser sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) at Shetland Islands; cephalopods in the Cantabrian Sea. Additional species reported as prey are sea-birds and Atlantic cod Gadus morhua.

There are many cases of anglerfish being found with empty stomachs, suggesting they do not feed often. Some authors have reported higher rates of feeding in fall and winter months. (Armstrong, et al., 1996; Colmenero, et al., 2010; Fariña, et al., 2008; Frimodt, 1995; Johnson, et al., 2008)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans


Humans are the main predator of anglerfish. They fish for them and once caught they are sold in markets as food in European countries. They are marketed fresh and frozen. They can be steamed, sauteed, broiled, boiled, fried, microwaved and baked. The name for anglerfish as food is "Queue de Lotte."

There have also been reports of harbor seals breaking into nets to eat anglerfish. Cannibalism occurs in this species, but it is rare. (Arnold, 2015; Collins, et al., 1993; Fariña, et al., 2008)

Ecosystem Roles

Anglerfish are a host for over 50 different species of parasites some include the larvae of the species as well as the matured species.

Parasites in the Acanthocephala taxon include Acanthocephaloides incrassatus, Acanthocephaloides propinquus, Corynosoma strumosum, Echinorhynchus gadi, and Rhadinorhynchus tenuicornis. Parasites in the Cestoda taxon include Bothriocephalus scorpii, Callitetrahynchus gracillis, Echeneibothrium sp., Grillotia erinaceus, Grillotia heptanchi, Hepatoxylon trichiurid, Nybelinia lingualis, Proteocephalus sp., Pseudophyllidean plerocercoids, Rhinebothrium sp., Scolex pleuronectis, and Tentacularia coryphaenae.

Parasitic copepods are Caligus curtus, Caligus elongatus, and Chondracanthus lophii. Parasites in the Digenea taxon include Aphallus tubarium, Acanthostomum sp., Complexobursa sp., Derogenes varicus, Derogenes sp., Dinurus longisinus, Dolichoenterum sp., Ectenurus lepidus, Fellodistomum fellis, Fellodistomum sp., Gonocerca crassa, Hemiurus levinseni, Hemiurus communis, Hirudinella ventricosa, Lampritrema meischeri, Lecithaster gibbosus, Lecithochirium fusiforme, Lecithochirium musculus, Lecithochirium physcon, Lecithochirium rufoviride, Monascus filiformis, Otodistomum sp. (metacercariae found), Podocotyle atomon, Podocotyle reflexa, Prosorhynchoides gracilescens, Prosorhynchus crucibulum, Prosorhynchus squamatus, Stephanostomum cesticillum, Stephanostomum kovalevae, Stephanostomum lophii, Stephanostomum sp., Steringophorus furciger, and Synaptobothrium viviparus.

Parasitic leeches include Calliodbella lophii. The parasitic isopods include Nerocila orbignyi. The parasite in the Microsporidia taxon is Spraguea lophii.

The parasites Altaspora sp., Ceratomyxa appendiculate, Ceratomyxa sp., and Pseudalataspora sp. are in the Myxosporea taxon. The parasitic nematodes include Anisakis pegreffi, Anisakis simplex sensu stricto, Anisakis sp., Ascaris lophiipiscatorii, Ascaris microcerca, Capilaria sp., Contracaecum sp., Cucullanus cirratus, Cucullanus hians, Cucullanus lophii, Cucullanus sp., Hysterothylacium aduncum, Hysterothylacium auctum, Hysterothylacium fabri, Hysterothylacium increscens, Hysterothylacium marinum, Hysterothylacium rigidum, Hysterothylacium sp., Paracuaria sp., Pseudoterranova decipiens, Raphidascaris chirocentrid, Raphidascaris lophii, Rondonia lophii, Spinitectus cristatus, and Spinitectus sp. (Canas, et al., 2010; Marianna, 1993; Papoutsoglou, 1975)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans catch anglerfish and trade them on the market as food without the skin or head. They are marketed fresh and frozen. They can be steamed, sauteed, broiled, boiled, fried, microwaved and baked.

These fish are usually caught using trawling and gillnets. Farina et al. (2008) reported that this species, along with two others in the genus (Lophius americanus and Lophius vomerinus) were harvested at a rate of more than 100,000 tons (90718474 kg) in 2007. (Fariña, et al., 2008; Frimodt, 1995; Le Floc'h, et al., 2008)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There have been reports of seals cutting through nets to eat the anglerfish. This comes at a cost to fishermen and could be viewed as a negative economic impact of anglerfish. (Collins, et al., 1993)

Conservation Status

The conservation status of anglerfish is "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List. Anglerfish have no special status on the US federal list, CITES, or State of Michigan list.

ICES has been trying to regulate overfishing by providing fishermen with maps that show the most suitable areas for fishing. They have also been trying to regulate fishing. Since 1997, they have been attempting to reduce the number of anglerfish caught by informing the public to limit the amount they can catch. But by 2000, they advised that there should be a 40% reduction in catches and by 2001 it was moved to a 2/3 reduction. Farina et al. (2008) reported that this species, along with two others in the genus (Lophius americanus and Lophius vomerinus) were harvested at a rate of more than 100,000 tons (90718474 kg) in 2007.

At the time of this publication, sustainable fishing is now maintained by a few methods: limiting total allowable catch (TAC), limiting effort control, implementing mesh size restrictions, and making sure that fishing for them is closed for some seasons. Still, there have been reports of over-fishing and habitat destruction due to the decline in catches in recent years. ("Anglerfish in Sub-area IV (North Sea) and Sub-area VI (West of Scotland and Rockall)", 2001; Arnold, 2015; Fariña, et al., 2008; Turner, et al., 2017)


Kristen Coleman (author), Radford University, Layne DiBuono (editor), Radford University, Lindsey Lee (editor), Radford University, Kioshi Lettsome (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

indeterminate growth

Animals with indeterminate growth continue to grow throughout their lives.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


An aquatic biome consisting of the open ocean, far from land, does not include sea bottom (benthic zone).


an animal that mainly eats fish

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


uses touch to communicate


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


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