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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology

Also mesopelagic (Ref. 7300). A small deep-sea angler fish. Males dwarfed, becoming parasitic on females (Ref. 10762). An 8 cm female was found with 3 parasitic males of 18 mm length, attached to her ventral side. Adult (=parasitic) males are colorless with reduced teeth, jaws, and eyes. Information on the maximum length of female was taken from Ref. 10762.
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Description

The body of metamorphosed females is short, its depth at the base of the pectoral fin 55–70% SL. The length of the head is 50–60% SL. The sphenotics, frontals, and preopercles all bear strong prominent spines. The preopercular spine is compressed, its distal one-half normally divided into 2–5 short broad cusps (in one specimen the spine is undivided on the left side), the upper- and lowermost spine more-or-less strongly curved. The lower jaw bears a symphysial spine. The ventral edge of the articulars is straight.

The nostrils of females are set on elongate papilla. The lateral-line organs are stalked and unpigmented. The pterygiophore of the illicium is short, completely embedded in the skin of the head. The escal bulb is sessile and spherical or distally flattened, with a diameter of about 10% SL, and completely unpigmented except for the inner wall of the photophores. There is a single short posterior escal appendage, divided distally into 2–6 short branches, simple in some juveniles.

The teeth of females are slender, recurved, and depressible, the longest about 5% SL. There are 50–80 teeth on each side of the upper and lower jaws in 40–60 mm specimens, arranged in several diagonal series, 6 to at least 10 oblique longitudinal series, and a greater number of oblique transverse series, increasing with the size of specimens.

The skin of females is totally unpigmented, the peritoneum black. Secondary subdermal pigmentation spreads posteriorly with increasing size of specimens from an anterior concentration on the dorsal surface of the trunk. It also spreads anteriorly from the base of the caudal fin, gradually obscuring the pattern of larval melanophores, and completely covering the body musculature of adults, except for the myosepta. The skin of free-living and parasitic males is also unpigmented.

The body of free-living and parasitic males is elongate. The roof of the skull is not strongly arched. Sphenotic spines are absent or represented only by a small blunt knob. The dorsal contour of the body is straight to slightly convex. The teeth are recurved and depressible. There are 20–24 on each side of the upper and lower jaws, arranged in four very distinct oblique longitudinal series, each with the length of teeth increasing posteriorly. The longest teeth are 3–4% SL and 2–4 times the length of the denticular teeth. Some jaw teeth are lost in larger parasitic males.

The eyes of males are directed anteriorly; they are slightly tubular, with diameters of 6–7% SL. The olfactory organs are situated on the sides of the blunt snout, well separated from the eyes and inflated, their greatest diameter about 6% SL. The anterior nostrils are directed anteriorly, about one-half the size of the posterior nostrils. The olfactory organs and eyes are degenerated in the largest parasitic males.

The skin of free-living and parasitic males is unpigmented. Subdermal pigment is present on the peritoneum and in two series of melanophores along the sides of the body: a dorsal series frequently consisting of a single row of melanophores, but sometimes two or three melanophores in width; and a ventral series of melanophores two to several melanophores in width. The dorsal and ventral series fuse to form a single group of melanophores at the base of the caudal fin.

The body shape and patterns of jaw-teeth and subdermal pigmentation of the larvae are as described for free-living males. The numbers of teeth and melanophores increase with the size of specimens. Except for metamorphic stages, the larvae are inseparable from those of the Linophryne subgenus Rhizophryne.

Fin-ray counts are shared by females and males: the dorsal and anal fins each contain 3 rays, the pectoral-fin 15 or 16 rays. The caudal-fin contains 9 rays, the ninth ray about one-half the length of the eighth.

Females reach a maximum known length of 159 mm (NMNZ P.21248); free-living males, 16 mm (MCZ 32308); and parasitic males, 15 mm (AMS I.21365-8).

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Data on Catalog of Fishes

View data on Catalog of Fishes here.

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Type locality

VALDIVIA station 175, Indian Ocean, 26°3'S, 93°43'E, open pelagic net, 0–2200 m, 12 January 1899.

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Type specimen(s)

Holotype of Aceratias mollis: ZMB 17713, male, 13 mm.

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Distribution

Tropical and subtropical parts of all oceans; FishBase records from Nantucket Shoals
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Tropical and subtropical parts of all oceans. Four specimens are known from off Madeira.
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Haplophryne mollis is known from all three major oceans of the world, the majority of the localities scattered over the North Atlantic between about 40°N and 40°S, including six females from the Western North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Most Pacific specimens are from off eastern Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia, but single specimens have been recorded from Hawaii and the Gulf of Panama. The species is represented in the Indian Ocean only by the holotype of Aceratias mollis and one free-living male.

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Circumglobal.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 3; Analspines: 0; Analsoft rays: 3
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Size

Maximum size: 80 mm SL
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Max. size

15.9 cm SL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 58502))
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Seventy-five metamorphosed and metamorphic females (21–159 mm), 43 parasitic males (8.9–15 mm), 20 free-living metamorphosed and metamorphic males (10–16 mm), and about 250 ‚ÄúHyaloceratias‚Äù larvae (2.6–17.5 mm).

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Diagnostic Description

Mature females are unpigmented and have a nearly rounded shape of body. There are spines above the eyes and behind the mouth. The illicium consists of a rounded flap without pole. Small numerous teeth in both jaws.
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Metamorphosed females of Haplophryne are distinguished from those of all other ceratioids by having unpigmented skin and a single compressed preopercular spine consisting of 2–5 radiating cusps. They differ further from those of all other genera of the family in having the following combination of character states: The frontals are widely separated, each with an anterodorsal spine. Epiotic and posttemporal spines are absent. The maxillae is reduced and extremely slender. The teeth are relatively short and numerous, placed in several overlapping oblique longitudinal series. Vomerine teeth are absent, The first pharyngobranchial is absent. The ceratohyal lacks an anterodorsal process. The posterior margin of the hypural plate is notched. The ninth caudal-fin ray is about one-half the length of the eighth ray. The illicium is extremely short, the escal bulb sessile on the snout. There is only a single escal appendage. A hyoid barbel is absent. The second pectoral radial is broader than the third.

The free-living males of Haplophryne are distinguished from those of all other genera of the family by having the following combination of character states: The sphenotic spines are weak, nearly absent. The preopercle is slender and angled at mid-length. The epiotic region of the skull is only moderately elevated. The premaxillae are well developed. There are 20–24 teeth on each side of the upper and lower jaws, arranged in four series. The longest jaw teeth are longer than the denticular teeth. There is a transverse series of 3–6 upper denticular teeth, more-or-less completely fused at the base to form a small upper denticular bone. A pair of lower denticular bones are widely spaced near tip of lower jaw, each with 1–3 denticular teeth. All the denticular teeth are short and not meeting in front of the closed mouth. The olfactory organs are moderately enlarged and inflated, nearly as large as the eyes. The posterior nostril is well separated from the eye. There are 5–7 olfactory lamellae. The skin is everywhere unpigmented.

The larvae of Haplophryne are distinguished from those of all other genera of the family by having the following character states: Sphenotic spines are absent. There are two series of melanophores along the sides of the body, coming together at the base of the caudal fin to form a single more-or-less dense cluster. The pectoral fins are relatively small.

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Ecology

Habitat

nektonic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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mesopelagic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Environment

bathypelagic; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243); marine; depth range ? - 2250 m (Ref. 58018)
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Depth range based on 11 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 10 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 171.5 - 1460
  Temperature range (°C): 4.532 - 18.980
  Nitrate (umol/L): 1.496 - 32.192
  Salinity (PPS): 34.469 - 36.586
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.130 - 5.101
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.076 - 2.198
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.041 - 53.393

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 171.5 - 1460

Temperature range (°C): 4.532 - 18.980

Nitrate (umol/L): 1.496 - 32.192

Salinity (PPS): 34.469 - 36.586

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.130 - 5.101

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.076 - 2.198

Silicate (umol/l): 1.041 - 53.393
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Meso- to bathypelagic. All known specimens were caught in non-closing pelagic trawls. Of the 48 females, three specimens in metamorphosis were caught at maximum depths of 300 m, 10 others including six with parasitic males in maximum depths ranging from 550–900 m, and 12 others in nets with greater maximum fishing depth. With the exception of one specimen captured in less than 200 m, the 12 known free-living males came from hauls with maximum depths of more than 1500 m.

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Migration

Oceanodromous. Migrating within oceans typically between spawning and different feeding areas, as tunas do. Migrations should be cyclical and predictable and cover more than 100 km.
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Trophic Strategy

A small deep-sea angler fish. Male dwarfed, becoming parasitic on females (Ref. 10762). An 8 cm female was found with 3 parasitic males of 18 mm length, attached to her ventral side. Adult (=parasitic) male is colorless with reduced teeth, jaws, and eyes. Information on the maximum length of female was taken from Ref. 10762.
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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

As with all species of the family, dwarted males of H. mollis attach to females as sexual parasites, fusing tissues and ostensibly relying on the female for energy.

In contrast to Borophryne and Linophryne in which males are nearly always found upside down, facing forward, and attached to the belly close to the anus, those of Haplophryne may be found facing in any and all directions, almost anywhere on the head and trunk, and even, in one case, on the esca of the female. In contrast also to the parasitic males of all other ceratioids (except for a few specimens of Ceratias), a prominent nipple-like papilla of tissue projects from the female, more or less filling the mouth of the male. This papilla, if developed prior to actual fusion of male and female tissues, may facilitate the earliest stages of attachment by procuring a firmer hold for the male teeth. At the same time, however, the papilla, in filling the mouth cavity of the male, would seem to “represent a hindrance for the establishment of effective respiratory currents across the male gills.” The majority of the attached males, however, have retained an opening to the pharynx on each side, although one has lost the opening on one side, and three are so deeply embedded in female tissue that the mouth has become completely closed.

The 75 known females of Haplophryne mollis include 25 specimens that bear one to six parasitic males; three others bear a scar on various parts of the body that represents a lost male. Such scars are not known in any other ceratioid (white circular scars, one each on four specimens and four species of Himantolophus, are most probably the result of prior attachment of parasitic copepods). While the scars and most of the parasitic males are found on the belly of the females, several males are attached in various places on the head; especially remarkable is the position of a 12-mm male (AMS I.21365-008) attached to the distal surface of the esca of the female is somewhat larger (15 mm) and distinctly more bulky than the largest known free-living male, indicating growth based on true parasitism. Several of the parasitic males have large, apparently ripe testes, but no females with eggs larger than 0.15 mm in diameter have been reported.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Haplophryne mollis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There is 1 barcode sequence available from BOLD and GenBank.   Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.  Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.

ACCCGTTGATTTTTTTCAACAAACCATAAAGACATTGGAACCCTCTACTTAATCTTTGGCGCTTGAGCAGGCATAGTTGGTATAGCCCTT---AGCTTATTAATTCGTGCAGAACTCTATCAGCCAGGTTCTCTTCTAGGGGAT---GATCAAATTTATAATGTGATTGTCACGGCACATGCCTTTGTAATAATCTTCTTTATAGTTATACCAATTATAATTGGGGGTTTCGGAAACTGATTAATACCACTAATA---ATTGGGGCCCCAGACATGGCATTTCCTCGTATAAACAATATAAGTTTCTGACTCCTCCCCCCTTCCTTCCTTCTCCTCCTTGCCTCCTCAGGGGTAGAAGCCGGGGCAGGAACAGGTTGGACCGTGTACCCTCCCCTTTCAGGCAACCTAGCTCATGCCGGTGCATCCGTTGATCTC---GCAATCTTCTCGCTCCACCTGGCTGGAGTATCTTCAATTTTAGGGGCAATTAATTTTATTACAACAATTATAAACATAAAACCACCTGCCGTCACTCAATATCAAACGCCCCTGTTTGTGTGGTCTGTCCTGATCACTGCAGTCCTTCTCCTCCTTTCTTTACCCGTCTTTGCTGCC---GGAATTACAATACTTCTCACAGACCGAAACCTAAATACAACCTTTTTTGACCCTGCAGGGGGCGGAGACCCTATCCTATACCAACACCTGTTCTGATTCTTTGGTCACCCTGAAGTGTACATTCTAATCCTTCCAGGCTTTGGTATTATCTCCCACGTAGTAGCCTTTTATTCAGGCAAAAAA---GAGCCATTCGGCCATATGGGTATGGTGTGAGCTATAATAGCTATCGGTCTTCTGGGGTTCATTGTATGAGCCCACCATATATTTACAGTTGGTCTAGATGTAGACACACGCGCATACTTCACATCCGCTACAATGATTATTGCAATCCCCACAGGAGTTAAAGTATTCAGCTGACTG---GCGACTTTGCATGGCG
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Haplophryne mollis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Threats

Not Evaluated
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: of no interest
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