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Anglerfishes: Lophiiformes

Monkfish (lophius Americanus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Monkfish have a very large, wide, flattened head and an enormous mouth armed with long, sharp, cone-shaped teeth. Monkfish have hairlike threads hanging in front of their eyes that act as fishing line. The lines have knoblike lures at the end. Monkfish have a large number of dorsal and anal fin rays and vertebrae (ver-teh-BREE), which are the bones that make up the spinal column.

Geographic range: Monkfish live in the western Atlantic Ocean.

Habitat: Monkfish live on soft and hard bottoms, including mud, sand, pebbles, gravel, and broken shells from just below the tide line to depths of about 2,625 feet (800 meters).

Monkfish have been known to eat birds such as cormorants, herring gulls, loons, and auks. (Illustration by Joseph E. Trumpey. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Monkfish are greedy ambushers that eat any prey large enough to engulf, including fishes nearly as long as they are. Monkfish have been known to engulf birds such as cormorants, herring gulls, loons, and auks. Smaller monkfish feed on a variety of invertebrates.

Behavior and reproduction: Small fish that come in range of the fishing line and lures of monkfish and strike at them are led down the line into the monkfish's huge mouth. Except for the facts that monkfish have long egg veils and the early larvae drift in open water, scientists do not how these fish reproduce.

Monkfish and people: Monkfish is a popular food fish. Some people call it goosefish.

Conservation status: Monkfish are not threatened or endangered. ∎



Byatt, Andrew, Alastair Fothergill, and Martha Holmes. Blue Planet. New York: DK, 2001.

Gilbert, Carter Rowell, and James D. Williams. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes: North America. New York: Knopf, 2002.

Web sites:

"City Boat Joins Monkfish Study." South Coast Today. http://www.s-t.com/daily/02-01/02-28-01/a01lo002.htm (accessed on October 8, 2004).

"Frequently Asked Questions about Monkfish." Northeast Fisheries Science Center. http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/read/popdy/monkfish/Survey2004/2004_index.html (accessed on October 10, 2004).

"Sargassum Anglerfish: Histrio histrio (Linnaeus, 1758)." Australian Museum Fish Site. http://www.amonline.net.au/fishes/fishfacts/fish/hhistrio.htm (accessed on October 10, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceFish and Other Cold-Blooded VertebratesAnglerfishes: Lophiiformes - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Sargassumfish (histrio Histrio): Species Accounts, Monkfish (lophius Americanus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, ANGLERFISHES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION S