Lophius americanus - goosefish - Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - 2012-05-17
A "Lophius americanus" or goosefish, on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
These are a species of fish that belong to the anglerfish family. Anglerfish all have the same sort of long appendage which they dangle in front of the head. Sometimes it glows, sometimes it looks like a worm, and sometimes it is just an appendage. But anglerfish use this appendage to draw prey close to the mouth -- which they then eat.
The goosefish "Lophius americanus" was first discovered in 1836. It is a demersal fish, which means it lives right on the mddy, rocky, or sandy bottom of the continental shelf (rather than in deep oceanic water). This sub-species lives along the mid-Atlantic to north-Atlantic coasts of North America down to 2,000 feet.
These fish grow to be about 40 inches long. They have huge mouths, which are better for nabbing prey. They have two fins right behind the massive head, which they use to propel themselves. They eat other fish, rays, skates, cuttlefish, and squid.
Goosefish are unusual in that they lay about 1 to 3 million eggs and attach them to a sheet of mucous (a "veil") which then floats at the surface of the ocean. When the eggs hatch, the juveniles are miniscule. They feed on plankton at first and look like any other fish. When they reach about 3 inches in lengthy, they metamorphose into the flat, large-mouthed adult form. They then start swimming downward, and in a few weeks -- after the metamorphosis is complete -- they begin living on the ocean floor.