Finding Nemo’s Angler Fish
The angler fish is a deep-sea creature with an illuminated lure growing from its snout. This modified fin ray, called an esca, contains millions of light-producing bacteria.
Finding Nemo features Marlin, a clownfish father, and Nemo as the central characters, along with Dory (a blue tang), who suffers from short-term memory loss.
Any time someone attempts to lure fish with artificial lures, light is the key. That is especially true in deep water environments where visibility may quickly fade. Luckily, some animals have devised clever solutions – like angler fish who use luminescent fishing rod-shaped lures like luminescent lightbulbs as bait before unleashing their razor-sharp teeth against prey.
These bioluminescent lures are created by Photobacterium bacteria living inside an angler fish’s esca or “fishing rod.” In exchange for protection and nutrients, Photobacterium lights up its surroundings with illumination – helping the fish avoid predators while possibly helping it find mates.
Although scientists remain uncertain about the precise reason behind an angler fish producing light, scientists know they need it for survival in the deep-pelagic zone extending down 200 meters below sea level, where solar light begins to fade away. Animal survival depends on attracting prey, communicating effectively among themselves, and avoiding being eaten by predators.
As such, most deep-sea creatures produce biologically derived light known as bioluminescence. While sunlight has multiple wavelengths visible at various times of day and can penetrate water more readily than any other color, bioluminescent light typically emits blue wavelengths due to water’s penetration properties.
Angler fish (pictured here with Chaenophryne longiceps) possess lures that resemble fishing rods in form and emit soft blue-green lights that attract prey closer for easier capture. Furthermore, these lures serve multiple functions, including navigation and signaling potential mates; adult females of this species tend to possess them more prominently and can be easily observed from below.
Finding Nemo features a fictional anglerfish character with many features that resemble deep-sea anglerfish found in nature, such as body morphology, long thin teeth, gaping mouth, bioluminescent lure, and mesmerizing light that mimic the light produced by deep-sea anglerfish to attract potential mates (Anderson & Leslie 2001). This angler fish in Finding Nemo serves as a good representation of this fish type (Anderson & Leslie 2001).
Anglerfish have evolved to survive at low levels of natural lighting, emitting their illumination through bioluminescence. The bright light generated through bioluminescence results from an interaction between a chemical (luciferin) and an enzyme (luciferase) with visible sparks reaching depths up to 1000 meters; anglerfish use this source of illumination to find food, communicate with others in its species, and choose sexual partners.
These species display extreme sexual dimorphism, with female anglerfish significantly more significant than their male counterparts. When female anglerfish find a suitable partner, they mate together and reproduce without immune system keys that would prevent this process (Carazo, 2022).
Anglerfishes belong to the ceratoid family of fishes and, like others in this group, possess flat eyes with a pit or cup-shaped depressions in the centers that can be filled with water to focus and intensify luminous light emitted. However, as fish dive more profoundly, more water fills these pits or cups, reducing the intensity of light output from each. Some anglerfish even possess convex eye spots, which gather more light than flat or concave spots, making it easier for dimly lit environments.
Anglerfish’s distinctive appearance can be traced back to its ancestor, the hagfish. To adapt to life in the dark ocean, their ancestor evolved a shallow pit or “cup” around its eyes for better light discrimination by measuring where the light struck specific photoreceptor cells within its eyes – similar to how an iPhone screen gathers more light when held in low lighting environments than regular phones do.
The Angler Fish uses its sharp teeth to trap and eat small fish and squid drawn in with bioluminescent light. When one of its prey approaches, nerves in its head fire, signaling to its mouth to open and swallow its victim whole; its menacing but harmless spiny teeth serve not to attack but to hold onto its prey in its vast mouth until they can nibble away at it!
The odd, beady fish with its long, sharp teeth and dark body has long been associated with deep sea exploration and its perils. Its strange lifestyle and unsettling physical features are used in films to depict alterity underwater that poses threats to protagonists of stories about it.
Science often takes a backseat to create spectacle, such as in Finding Nemo with Uncle Ugo, who was depicted as an unpleasant monster with large, razor-sharp teeth that tore through whale meat before living deep within the ocean depths. He presented Luca with an obstacle while his odd behavior and unusual behaviors provoked feelings of alienation and altered reality in him.
Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recently obtained rare video footage of an angler fish called Melanocetus in its natural habitat. It features a distinctive illuminated rod on top of its head that acts as both an attractant and lure for other creatures to come closer. Male angler fish do not feature this lure feature but do possess similar hooks seen in movies for when other animals approach. When a fish or squid comes close enough, it quickly inhales it into its mouth before holding onto its long, spiny teeth for safekeeping.
The angler fish uses its light from its top head to attract prey, like Marlin and Dory in Finding Nemo’s dark habitat, that would draw its target – which in real life includes small marine animals such as squid, sea turtles, dead marine creatures that sink to the ocean floor, etc.
Finding Nemo introduced many people to an array of aquatic creatures, from father-and-son clownfish, an echolocation-challenged beluga whale, grumpy porcupine fish, and three vegetarian sharks – to name just a few. It challenged and reinforced common perceptions of many underwater species in its portrayal in this movie.
Even though Finding Nemo features fictional characters, Pixar did an outstanding job illustrating realistic personalities and behaviors for each species depicted. Gentle-mannered Marlin and his lively daughter Dory are typical of their type, while bold, excitable Nemo stands out as a blue tang. Furthermore, Pixar accurately illustrated how clownfish dads protect and nurture their eggs to ensure successful reproduction within their species.
Finding Nemo also showcases how aquatic species behave in nature through its characters. For instance, Bailey, a beluga whale with echolocation issues, was able to communicate with other whales using unique vocalizations; Hank, the seven-armed octopus, was instrumental in helping Marlin and Dory navigate their ocean journey; other characters, including a sassy sea turtle who befriends Bruce; they all provided realistic depictions of these aquatic species.
Finding Nemo highlights aquatic species’ broad array of behaviors within their natural environments while depicting how humans and other external factors impact the ocean environment and its ecosystems. Furthermore, this film emphasizes the need to protect these natural environments.