Ichthyological Research

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 207–236

Dimorphism, parasitism, and sex revisited: modes of reproduction among deep-sea ceratioid anglerfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes)


DOI: 10.1007/s10228-005-0286-2

Cite this article as:
Pietsch, T. Ichthyol Res (2005) 52: 207. doi:10.1007/s10228-005-0286-2


Sexual parasitism, a remarkable mode of reproduction unique to some members of the deep-sea anglerfish suborder Ceratioidei, in which males are dwarfed and become permanently attached to much larger females, is described in a number of previously unreported specimens and taxa. Although generally attributed to all ceratioids, and despite more than a sevenfold increase in the number of known parasitized females in collections throughout the world in the past 50 years, the phenomenon is surprisingly confined to few taxa within the suborder. To date, permanently attached males have been found in only 5 of the 11 ceratioid families, 10 of the 35 genera, and 23 of the 160 recognized species. Notes on taxonomic content, available material, occurrence of sexual parasitism, gravid females and ripe males, the development of eyes and nostrils of the males, the ability of males to capture and ingest food independently of the female, occurrences of multiple attachments of males to a single female, and the nature of the fusion between coupled males and females are given for each ceratioid family. This information is then summarized and discussed. Evidence is presented to reaffirm the presence of three reproductive modes: obligatory parasitism, facultative parasitism, and temporary nonparasitic attachment. Additional evidence is provided to reaffirm the hypothesis that sexual parasitism has evolved separately at least three and perhaps five or more times within the suborder.

Key words

Teleostei Lophiiformes Ceratioidei Anglerfishes Deep sea Reproductive strategies Sexual dimorphism Sexual parasitism 

Copyright information

© The Ichthyological Society of Japan 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, College of Ocean and Fishery SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA