Nightmarish Sea Beast With Bloody-Looking Mouth Washes Up on San Diego Beach

A sea creature described as "the stuff of nightmares" has washed up on a beach in San Diego. The foot-long anglerfish appeared at Black's Beach and was spotted by local resident Jay Beiler, who took photos of the creature and sent them to NBC 7 San Diego.

"I have never seen anything quite like this before," he told the broadcaster, saying he goes down to the beach on a regular basis. "I've never seen an organism that looked quite as fearsome as this."

Beiler said he initially thought it was some sort of jellyfish, but after closer inspection he realized it was something far more unusual. "It's the stuff of nightmares—[its] mouth almost looked bloody," he said. "I'd say it was nearly a foot long."

He took some pictures of the fish and went on his way. A photograph, which can be accessed on the NBC 7 San Diego website, shows the sand-covered pinkish-colored fish with black eyes, long sharp teeth and a pink tongue. It has black spots around its mouth and an appendage coming from its head.

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Journalists at NBC 7 San Diego sent the pictures to several scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to find out exactly what had washed up on the San Diego shores.

They said it was a species of anglerfish which normally lives in the deep ocean and hunts using a light from its head appendage. The exact species was a Pacific footballfish, Himantolophus sagamius.

Ben Frable, collection manager of the marine vertebrate collection at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told the broadcaster that this individual appears to be a mature female. Female Pacific footballfish are far larger than males, in some cases up to 60 times bigger, Frable said.

"This is one of the larger species of anglerfish, and it's only been seen a few times here in California, but it's found throughout the Pacific Ocean," he is quoted as saying. "The Pacific footballfish is known from 30 specimens that have ever been collected and brought to museums around the Pacific Ocean. They've been found in Japan, all the way down to New Zealand, all over, and a lot of times, they have been found washed up on beaches, so it's not really quite sure what causes them to wash up."

The anglerfish was not recovered and it is thought it was washed away by the ocean. Frable said if anyone finds an unusual fish along San Diego's beaches to contact them so they can go and collect it.

"We don't know much about the biology of these fishes, and that's one of the reasons we would like people to let us know when they find one on the beach so we can potentially learn a little bit more," he told NBC 7 San Diego.

Another anglerfish washed up on the shores of California earlier this year. Images of the black anglerfish were posted by local tour agency Davey's Locker Sportfishing & Whale Watching in May after it washed up on Crystal Cove beach.

deep sea anglerfish
A deep sea anglerfish collected during the 2002 Bear Seamount cruise. A Pacific footballfish was found on a beach in San Diego. Jon Moore/NOAA Ocean Explorer