Topsy-Turvy Swimmer : Fish with a fishing-rod face lives life upside down. :

Usually, a belly-up fish isn't long for this world. But video evidence from the deep ocean suggests that some species of anglerfish - the nightmarish deep sea fish with bioluminescent lures - live their whole lives upside down.

The behavior documented in the Journal of Fish Biology, is '' beyond anyone's wildest imagination,'' said Elizabeth Miller, who started the evolution of deep sea fish as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oklahoma. [ Dr.Miller was not involved in the discovery.]

The female whipnose anglerfish is a small sea monster with an appendage like a fishing rod on its face. 

It tempts prey with bioluminescent bacteria that live in the tip of the lure. The males, said Andrew Stewart, curator of fishes at the Museum of New Zealand and the author of the study, are ''sad little tadpole things'' a fraction of the size of the females, and lack the lure.

For nearly a century, scientists assumed whipnose anglerfish would dangle their lures in front of their faces, as many anglerfish with shorter lures do.

But videos from underwater missions in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans suggest that whipnoses spend their lightless days upside down, with their long lures hanging toward the seafloor.

While humans might find it hard to take a belly-up predator seriously, swimming upside down may make the whipnose more lethal.

Researchers suspect that keeping the lures farther from their mouths may enable whipnose anglerfish to take down larger and faster prey without accidentally biting themselves.

Dr. Steward said that one dissected whipnose specimen had a gonatid squid in its belly - a real prize. [ Elizabeth Anne Brown ]


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