A Strange Love Story from the Deep

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This post courtesy BBC Earth. For more wildlife news, find BBC Earth on Facebook and Posterous.

In a time full of romance and a royal wedding, BBC Earth looked toward the natural world to find out exactly which animal truly mates for life.

Weirdly enough, it took us to the dark zone of the ocean, more than 3,300 feet below the surface, to find the perfect couple. However, they were not only not what we expected, but were a total surprise to find at all! It was during the filming of the documentary series Blue Planet that the hairy angler was first discovered. Like many deep-sea fish, these creatures were new to science because of the great depths at which they live.

With a mouth full of fang-like teeth, a stomach that can expand to ingest prey twice its size, and a body covered in sensory antennae called neuromasts, you might be scared to learn that this is just the female! But never fear, the male is tenth the size of the female and much less frightening, at lease visually. Without a bright lure like the female, males ability to capture prey is nearly zero. Therefore the male takes on a more parasitic role.

With scarce food and mates, it’s essential to the survival of both male and female that the union is made permanent. When the two encounter each other in this inhospitable habitat, the male is quick to take the plunge. Latching onto her underside with his sharp teeth, the male will fuse with the female’s bloodstream where he will remain, providing sperm in return for essential nutrients.

However as time passes, not only will the male lose his eyes and all of his internal organs except his testes, but he could be joined by up to six other males! Watch BBC Earth executive producer Alastair Fothergill describe what he found weirdest about filming this amazing creature.

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