In the deep, dark waters off the Florida coast, researchers have discovered a new species of anglerfish that even they admit “can be downright scary looking.” Meet the Lasiognathus Regan, the newest species of the Ceratioid anglerfish.

The fish was first discovered by deep ocean researcher Tracey Sutton of Nova Southeastern University, who found three female specimens during an expedition that descended 1,500 feet beneath the ocean waves in the Gulf of Mexico. At that depth, light from the surface has long since faded and the ocean floor is lit up by the faint glow of bioluminescence.

“Also, at these depths, the pressure is immense—over one ton (2,200 pounds) per square inch. And the fight for food is never-ending,” read a press release from NSU. “That’s why these fish have developed their unique way of attracting prey—from the appendage at the top of their head, which resembles a fishing pole of sorts. And, like its human counterparts, this fish dangles the appendage until an unsuspecting fish swims up thinking they found a meal, only to quickly learn that they are, in fact, a meal themselves.”

Like all anglerfish, this new species is a fierce predator capable of luring and ambushing prey. Another—perhaps more fortunate—quality it shares with other anglerfish is its size. At just over three inches, these terrifying-looking fish are not much of a threat to humans, even if they surface.

Another angler fish from the genus Lasiognathus.
Another angler fish from the genus Lasiognathus.

“Finding this new species reinforces the notion that our inventory of life in the vast ocean interior is far from complete,” said Sutton. “Every research trip is an adventure and another opportunity to learn about our planet and the varied creatures who call it home.”

Sutton worked alongside deep-sea life expert Theodore Pietsch, who has done research on other anglerfish in the same genus, to categorize the new species. Their findings were published in the scientific journal Copeia.

Images from NSU and Theodore W. Pietsch

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