Home Science news Deep-sea anglerfish fuse bodies to mate thanks to an odd immune system

Deep-sea anglerfish fuse bodies to mate thanks to an odd immune system

Anglerfish have an uncommon manner of mating and an uncommon immune system

Edith A. Widder

Some species of anglerfish – the deep-sea predator that makes use of a luminous lure to entice prey – have a weird manner of reproducing: they fuse with their mates. We now understand how the fish can fuse tissues with out triggering a potent immune response. They have a wierd immune system.

There are 168 recognized species of anglerfish, that are discovered at ocean depths beneath about 300 metres. Some species mate by means of a course of often known as sexual parasitism. Males, which are sometimes lower than 10 millimetres in size, connect to the physique of the bigger feminine.

For some species of anglerfish, this attachment is non permanent. In others, it’s everlasting: the pores and skin tissues of the 2 fish fuse and ultimately their circulatory programs join, and the male turns into depending on its mate for vitamins.


In all different vertebrate species, the fusion of tissues would set off a major immune response, as a result of an animal’s immune system assaults cells it recognises as international – the rationale why individuals have to take immunosuppressive medication after receiving an organ transplant.

By analysing the DNA of 31 anglerfish specimens from 10 species, Thomas Boehm on the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany, and his colleagues discovered that fusing anglerfish species are lacking key immune system genes.

All different vertebrates have some type of adaptive immunity, during which white blood cells often known as T-cells and B-cells shield the physique by recognising international pathogens and producing particular antibodies towards them.

“Patients with defects in adaptive immunity are very poorly,” says Boehm. But the anglerfish appear to have traded adaptive immunity for reproductive success with out extreme penalties.

Species with quickly attaching males didn’t have practical aicda genes, that are wanted for antibodies to mature. Permanently attaching species additionally had non-functioning rag genes, that are wanted to assemble T-cell receptors.

The deep sea isn’t completely devoid of pathogens, so how the anglerfish are ready to defend themselves from an infection stays a thriller, says Boehm.

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz9445

More on these matters:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here