Common name: Blackdevils, Blackdevil Deepsea Anglerfishes, Black Seadevils


The females of this mesopelagic deepwater anglerfish family (Suborder Ceratioidei) have short, rounded bodies, huge mouths with long fang-like teeth, smooth dark skin and a bioluminescent lure on a "fishing rod" between the eyes. The tiny free-living males are never parasitic on females.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Blackdevils, MELANOCETIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

A small family with a single genus and 6 species; a single genus with two species is known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Found worldwide in tropical and temperate areas of all major oceans; inhabit meso- and bathypelagic waters.

Family Description

Females - body short, deep, rounded, head short, eye small; mouth large, opening oblique or almost horizontal, jaw teeth long, fang-like, slender, recurved, and depressible. Dorsal fin with 12 or more rays, anal fin short-based with only 3-5 rays; pectoral fin radials 4, fusing to 3 with growth, pelvic fins absent. Illicium moderate to long, emerging on snout between eyes, biolumiscent esca conspicuous and bulbous. Skin smooth, dark, appearing naked. Males - free-living and much smaller and more elongate than females; jaw teeth absent, upper denticular with 2-3 series of strong recurved denticles, fused with median series of 3-9 enlarged dermal spines; lower denticular with 10-23 recurved denticles, fused into median and 2 lateral groups; eyes moderate, directed laterally, olfactory organs large; skin spinulose or naked.

Family Size

Females to 135 mm, males to 28 mm.

Family Feeding

Reported to feed on fishes and crustaceans.

Family Reproduction

Oviparous, fertilization external. Eggs are pelagic, presumably laid in buoyant, gelatinous rafts. Larvae are pelagic, about 2 mm at hatching, body short, spherical, skin somewhat inflated; pectoral fins not enlarged, pelvic fins absent. Larvae sexually dimorphic with rudimentary illicium of females visible on top of head. Larval metamorphosis begins between 8-10 mm SL.

Family Commercial

Of no commercial importance.

Family Conservation


Family Remarks

Adult females have been found with scars on thier bodies, indicating that the tiny males, wihc are not parasitic, temporarily attach to females during breeding.


Dianne J. Bray


Bertelsen, E. 1951. The ceratioid fishes. Ontogeny, taxonomy, distribution and biology. Dana Rept. 39, 276 pp.

Bertelsen, E. 1984. Ceratioidei: Development and relationships. pp. 325-334, In Moser, H.G., W.J. Richards, D.M. Cohen, M.P. Fahay, A.W. Kendall, Jr. & S.L. Richardson (eds), Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. Spec. Publ. No. 1, Amer. Soc. Ichthy. Herpet., ix + 760 pp.

Bertelsen, E. & T.W. Pietsch. 1983. The ceratioid anglerfishes of Australia. Rec. Aust. Mus. 35(2): 77-99.

Munk, O. & P.J. Herring. 1996. An early stage in development of escae and caruncles in the deep-sea anglerfish Cryptopsaras couesi (Pisces: Ceratioidei). J. Mar. Biol. Assn. U.K. 76: 517-527.

Pietsch, T.W. 2005. Dimorphism, parasitism, and sex revisited: modes of reproduction among deep-sea ceratioid anglerfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes). Ichthyol. Res. 52: 207-236.

Pietsch, T.W. 2009. Oceanic Anglerfishes: Extraordinary Diversity in the Deep Sea. University of California press, 576 pp.

Pietsch, T.W. & Kenaley, C.P. 2005. Melanocetidae. Melanocetus. Blackdevils. Version 05 November 2005 (under construction). in The Tree of Life Web Project,

Pietsch, T.W. & J.P. Van Duzer. 1980. Systematics and distribution of ceratioid anglerfishes of the family Melanocetidae, with description of a new species from the eastern North Pacific Ocean. U. S. Fish. Bull. 78(1): 59-87.