HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Jose V. Lopez

Second Advisor

Tracey T. Sutton

Third Advisor

Tory A. Hendry


Anglerfishes are easily one of the most popular deep-sea creatures due to their menacing appearance, extreme sexual dimorphism, parasitic mating approach, and eye catching bioluminescent lure. Unlike most bioluminescent fishes, which intrinsically generate light, female anglerfishes belonging to nine of the 11 families within the suborder Ceratioidei (deep-sea anglerfishes) have developed a symbiotic relationship with bioluminescent bacteria that are housed within the light organs. Previous molecular work had identified symbionts from two anglerfish species as novel and possibly unculturable taxa (Haygood et al., 1992), but nothing more has been revealed about the bioluminecent symbionts of ceratioids. As part of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative-funded DEEPEND project (Deependconsortium.org), the objective of this study is to characterize the escal microbiome of deep-sea anglerfishes and identify potential-symbiont taxa.

A total of 36 anglerfish specimens were collected on DEEPEND cruises DP01 through DP04. These specimens consist of adult and larval individuals belonging to six of the families with the suborder Ceratioidei: Ceratiidae (n=22), Oneirodidae (n=7), Linophrynidae (n=3), Melanocetidae (n=2), Centrophrynidae (n=1), Melanocetidae (n=2), Gigantactinidae (n=1). DNA was extracted from esca, skin, fin, gill, gut, and caruncle tissues, as well as seawater. High-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA hypervariable V4 region was carried out using the Illumina MiSeq.

Sequencing revealed five potential bioluminescent-symbiont taxa (OTU IDs: 9129, 9131, 160210, 523223, and 939811), which had the greatest relative abundance (25.2% - 98.7%) within 12 of 21 adult specimens. These taxa belong to the family Vibrionaceae and were found at greater than 10% relative abundance in the escal samples of adult anglerfishes belonging to the Ceratiidae and Melanocetidae families, but they were not found in high abundance in larval individuals of the same families. Sequencing of larval samples revealed five potential bioluminescent-symbiont taxa (OTU IDs: 136178, 176420, 523223, 837366, 939811) which were of greatest relative abundance (8.1%-67.1%) within nine of 13 specimens. Also members of the family Vibrionaceae, these taxa were found in high abundance in larval anglerfishes belonging to the Oneirodidae, Linophrynidae, Gigantactinidae, and Ceratiidae families. This study is the first to to examine the bioluminescent symbionts from seven different ceratioid families.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.