March 23 (UPI) -- For the first time, scientists have captured footage of a living female anglerfish and her male companion. Anglerfish are some of the most elusive creatures in the deep sea.
The couple was filmed by German researchers Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen while aboard LULA1000, the manned submersible operated by the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation.
For nearly a half-hour, scientists filmed the female anglerfish as she tumbled gently along with the ocean current at a depth 2,600 feet. The footage features her parasitic mate, a male one-tenth her size, clutched to her belly. The video is available to stream on Vimeo.
The pair was observed off the steep southern slope of São Jorge Island, located in the central Azorean archipelago of Portugal.
"I have spent hundreds of hours staring into deep waters, but this is one of the most amazing video footage I have seen to date," Antje Boetius, a biological oceanographer at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, said in a news release. "It brilliantly shows the otherness of deep-sea life, and how important it is to observe these animals in their own realm, to understand their behavior and adaptation."
The anglerfish species featured in the video is known as fanfin seadevil, Caulophryne jordani. There are 160 known anglerfish species, but the rare fish are seldom witnessed alive and in their native habitat.
Female anglerfish feature an array of whisker-like appendages, called fin-rays, carrying tiny beads of light. The bioluminescence draws in prey. Unlike their larger, blind mates, male anglerfish boast big eyes and a large nose to help them track down the attractive scent put out by females.
The fin-rays of many anglerfish move as a single unit, but the fanfin seadevil's rays move independently.
"One can't help but think these fin-rays form a network of sensory antennae, a kind of sphere of tactility around the fish -- akin to cat whiskers -- that functions to monitor the close presence of predators or prey," said Ted Pietsch, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington.
In addition to attracting prey, Pietsch believe the anglerfish's fin-rays may also suggest the presence of a larger organism, preventing the attack of would-be predators.
With submersible technology advancing, scientists hope a greater understanding of deep sea marine life is on the horizon.
"Collections matter for survey of occurrences, biogeography, species description, and morphology," said Peter Bartsch, curator of the fish collection at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Berlin. "But, whenever possible, these must be supplemented by direct observations for understanding biology, to test hypotheses of functions, potential biological roles of organ systems and ecology of the species."