A rare football, or angler, fish recently washed ashore on a beach in San Diego, California, according to local media. Dubbed "the stuff of nightmares" by Jay Beiler, the beachgoer who captured the now-viral images of the female fish, officials said back in May the creatures do sometimes make their way to land, but it's not clear why.
NBC 7 spoke with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which identified the fish as a Pacific footballfish, one of the larger football species that reside in the Pacific Ocean. It has only been seen "a few times" in California, Ben Frable, manager of Scripps' marine vertebrate collection, said via the outlet.
There are more than 200 species of anglerfish, and most live in the depths of the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans, but there are some species that can be found in shallower, tropical locales. Females can grow to about 60 centimetres in length while males top out at about 4 centimetres. This is because, according to Crystal Cove State Park, the "sole purpose" of a male is to "find a female and help her reproduce."
Males latch onto the females with their teeth, withering away and dying during reproduction.
Pacific football fish live at depths between 300 and 1,000 metres, where sunlight doesn’t penetrate, according to the California Academy of Sciences. They use a fleshy, bioluminescent lure from their heads to attract prey.