We’ve all had experiences with clingy boyfriends or girlfriends. But let’s all take a moment and be thankful that we don’t have to deal with anything quite like what female anglerfish have to endure in their lifetime.

When most people think of anglerfish, you might go straight to this image, featuring the dorsal spine that protrudes above their mouths like a fishing pole. This is a female anglerfish; Males don’t have the same feature. The luminous tip attracts prey to the female, who can swallow prey more than twice her size.

However, this luminous beacon also attracts male anglerfish. Once a male finally finds a female in the vast, lonely ocean, he will attach himself to her skin with his teeth.

Eventually, he will completely fuse to her skin and bloodstream and become somewhat of a parasite; he is completely dependent on the female for nutrition. Gradually he will lose all of his organs, including his eyes. Only his gonads will remain.

Screen capture of the first ever footage of a pair of fanfin anglerfish mating. Image: Rebikoff Foundation/ Science Magazine (via YouTube)

Males cannot fully develop without parasitizing females, and will eventually die without them. Some are even unable to eat in their early days, so they’ve got to find a female quickly.

Females have been known to carry at least 6 male anglerfish around at a time. It seems like kind of a drag, but at least she’ll always have her pick of boyfriends.

While the bottom of the sea may be a lonely place, clearly anglerfish have a way of finding – and keeping – each other. Who needs online dating when you have a deal like that?

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