Marine Biology

Diet and Feeding Habits of the Monkfish

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"Diet and Feeding Habits of the Monkfish"
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The monkfish (Lophius americanus) is a fish that eats anything and everything that swims past its mouth or tail. These fish have huge appetites. As larvae, they eat smaller creatures and zooplankton (microscopic bugs). As they grow, they eat smaller fish, squid and shrimp. As adults, they eat diving ducks and seabirds, crabs and other crustaceans, as well other fishes including other monkfish. People call them a number different names including: monktail, goosefish, anglerfish and allmouth.

These fish have strong teeth and few predators. They can eat fish that are the same size as they are. Besides their tail, they are mostly mouth. They grow up to four and a half feet and can weigh over forty pounds. Recently, a fisherman caught a 250 pound fish in Maine.  Fishermen need to use caution when unhooking them because they can and will bite human flesh.

They make their homes in the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean. The monkfish migrates to feeding areas. Anglers catch them from North Carolina to Maine. They also use the Shetland Islands in Europe for their homes.

To catch prey, they hide themselves on the muddy or sandy ocean floor. This is their unique fishing technique. Adults rest, partially buried, on the ocean bottom. They expose their tails and use them as decoys. An anglerfish has a filament on its dorsal fin it uses to lure other fishes to it. This spine moves as the fish directs it. The anglerfish sends out a light to draw in their prey.  No conclusive studies proof this, however. When anything that touches this spine, the fish will open its jaws. The fish can increase the size of its mouth and stomach to eat other large fish.

Females have a longer lifespan than males and grow larger. Females live up to thirteen years while males only live seven. Their coloring is warty chocolate like the mud where they hide. Their underbelly is white. To move, they use their pectoral fins and swim slowly. Young fish, up to fourteen inches in length, swim in the ocean. When they reach maturity, they make themselves a hole and rest in it, for the remainder of their lives. At that time, from February to October, they spawn. Females lay egg veils, which may contain as many as one million eggs.

In conclusion, the diet of this fish consists mainly of other fishes and marine animals that live on the bottom of the ocean.

More about this author: Julie Thomas-Zucker

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