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Temporal range: 48.6–0 Ma Lutetian to present[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Lophiiformes
Suborder: Lophioidei
Family: Lophiidae
Genus: Lophius
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Lophius piscatorius

See text


Members of the genus Lophius, also sometimes called monkfish, fishing-frogs, frog-fish, and sea-devils, are various species of lophiid anglerfishes found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Lophius is known as the "monk" or "monkfish" to the North Sea and North Atlantic fishermen, a name which also belongs to Squatina squatina, the angelshark, a type of shark. The North European species is Lophius piscatorius, and the Mediterranean species is Lophius budegassa.



Lophius was first proposed as a genus by Carl Linnaeus when he described Lophius piscatorius in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae given as "in Oceano Europæo", meaning the Northeastern Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean and Black Seas with localities mentioned including Bordeaux, Marseille and Montpellier in France; Genoa, Rome, Naples and Venice in Italy; Lesbos in Greece; and Syria.[2][3] The genus Lophius is one of 4 extant genera in the family Lophiidae which the 5th edition of Fishes of the World classifies in the monotypic suborder Lophioidei within the order Lophiiformes.[4] Within the Lophiidae Lophius is most closely related to Lophiomus with Lophiodes'' being the sister taxon to these and with Sladenia as the most basal sister group to the other three genera.[5]



Lophius means "mane" and is presumably a reference to the first three spines of the first dorsal fin which are tentacle like, with three smaller spines behind them.[6]



The seven recognized extant species in this genus are:[7]

Image Scientific Name Common Name Distribution
Lophius americanus Valenciennes, 1837 American angler western Atlantic from Newfoundland and Quebec south to northern Florida
Lophius budegassa Spinola, 1807 blackbellied angler Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic
Lophius gastrophysus A. Miranda-Ribeiro, 1915 blackfin goosefish coasts of northern South America, Central America, Aruba, Cuba, and Costa Rica
Lophius litulon D. S. Jordan, 1902 yellow goosefish Japan, Korea, and the Yellow and East China seas.
Lophius piscatorius Linnaeus, 1758 angler, European angler or common monkfish northeast Atlantic, from the Barents Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
Lophius vaillanti Regan, 1903 shortspine African angler Eastern Atlantic
Lophius vomerinus Valenciennes, 1837 devil anglerfish Durban, South Africa as well as northern Namibia where it is found in Indian and Atlantic Oceans



Lophius monkfishes are characterised by having highly compressed heads and bodies. The frontal ridges have a covering of low, blunt knobs or cross ridges. There is a large spine on the parietal bone and there are spines on the lower quadrate bone. The soft-rayed portion of the dorsal fin has between 9 and 12 rays and the anal fin has between 8 and 10 rays. The gill opening reaches below and to the rear of the base of the pectoral fin. There are 6 dorsal spines, those on the head are well developed but those behind the head are very small. There are two well-developed spines on the sphenotic bone and one on the epiotic bone. There is a single spine on the joint at the front of the jaw joint and a single interopercular spine. The humeral spine is also well-developed and has 2 or 3 smaller spines on it.[8] The largest species in the genus is the angler (L. piscatorius), with a maximum published standard length of 200 cm (79 in), while the smallest is the blackfin goosefish (L. gastrophysus) with a maximum published total length of 67 cm (26 in).[9]



The spawn of this genus consists of a thin sheet of transparent gelatinous material 60–100 cm (25–40 in) wide and 8–10 m (26–33 ft) in length. The eggs in this sheet are in a single layer, each in its own little cavity. The spawn is free in the sea. The larvae are free-swimming and have pelvic fins with elongated filaments.



The East Atlantic species is found along the coasts of Europe but becomes scarce beyond 60°N latitude; it also occurs on the coasts of the Cape of Good Hope.[clarification needed] The species caught on the North American side of the Atlantic is usually Lophius americanus. A third species (Lophius budegassa), inhabits the Mediterranean, and a fourth (L. setigerus) the coasts of Korea, China and Japan.[citation needed]

The black (L. budegassa) and white (L. piscatorius) anglerfish both live in shallow, inshore waters from 800 metres (2,600 ft) to deeper waters (greater than 1,000 metres or 3,300 feet).[10] These two species are very similar, with only a few distinctions between them. These include the colour of the peritoneum (black for L. budegassa and white for L. piscatorius) and the number of rays in the second dorsal fin (L. budegassa, 9–10 and L. piscatorius, 11–12).[11] Also, minor differences in their distribution occur. Black anglerfish tend to have a more southern distribution (Mediterranean and eastern North Atlantic from the British Isles to Senegal). In contrast, the white anglerfish are distributed further north (Mediterranean, Black Sea and eastern North Atlantic from the Barents Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar).[11] Despite these differences, the overall distribution of the black and white anglerfish tend to overlap greatly.[11] A map of the distribution of anglerfish in the waters surrounding Europe and North Africa can be found in the external links section. The movements of both species of anglerfish indicate mixing of both northern and southern species could have strong implications for the geographical boundaries of the stocks from a management perspective.[10]

Commercial use

Ankimo, a Japanese delicacy made of monkfish liver

Two species, Lophius piscatorius and Lophius budegassa, found in north-western Europe are referred to as monkfish, with L. piscatorius by far the most common species around the British Isles and of major fishery interest. Under UK Labelling Regulations, the phrase "monkfish" is only permitted for Lophiodes caulinaris, Lophius americanus, Lophius budegassa and Lophius piscatorius.[12]

Both species of Lophius are important because they are commercially valuable species usually caught by trawl and gillnetting fleets.[10]

Concern is expressed over the sustainability of monkfish fishing.[13] The method most commonly used to catch monkfish, beam trawling, has been described as damaging to seafloor habitats. In February 2007, the British supermarket chain Asda banned monkfish from their stores.[14]


  1. ^ Sepkoski, Jack (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera". Bulletins of American Paleontology. 364: 560. Archived from the original on 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
  2. ^ a b Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Genera in the family Lophiidae". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 6 March 2024.
  3. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Species in the genus Lophius". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 6 March 2024.
  4. ^ Nelson, J.S.; Grande, T.C.; Wilson, M.V.H. (2016). Fishes of the World (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 508–518. doi:10.1002/9781119174844. ISBN 978-1-118-34233-6. LCCN 2015037522. OCLC 951899884. OL 25909650M.
  5. ^ Masaki Miya; Theodore W Pietsch; James W Orr; et al. (2010). "Evolutionary history of anglerfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes): a mitogenomic perspective". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 10 (58): 58. Bibcode:2010BMCEE..10...58M. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-58. PMC 2836326.
  6. ^ Christopher Scharpf (14 November 2022). "Order LOPHIIFORMES (part 1): Families LOPHIIDAE, ANTENNARIIDAE, TETRABRACHIIDAE, LOPHICHTHYIDAE, BRACHIONICHTHYIDAE, CHAUNACIDAE and OGCOCEPHALIDAE". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf. Retrieved 6 March 2024.
  7. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). Species of Lophius in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  8. ^ Theodore W Pietsch (2022). "Order Lophiiformes". In Phillip C Heemstra; Elaine Heemstra; David A Ebert; Wouter Holleman; John E Randall (eds.). Coastal Fishes of the Western Indian Ocean (PDF). Vol. 2. South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. pp. 281–307. ISBN 978-1-990951-29-9.
  9. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2024). Species of Lophius in FishBase. February 2024 version.
  10. ^ a b c Landa, J; Quincoces, I.; Duarte, R.; Farina, A.C.; Dupouy, H. (2008). "Movements of black and white anglerfish (Lophius budegassa and L. piscatorius) in the northeast Atlantic". Fisheries Research. 94 (1): 12. doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2008.04.006.
  11. ^ a b c Duarte, Rafael; Azevedo, Manuela; Landa, Jorge; Pereda, Pilar (2001). "Reproduction of anglerfish (Lophius budegassa Spinola and Lophius piscatorius Linnaeus) from the Atlantic Iberian coast". Fisheries Research. 51 (1–3): 12. doi:10.1016/S0165-7836(01)00259-4.
  12. ^ "The Fish Labelling (England) Regulations 2010 No. 420". legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 27 January 2024.
  13. ^ Stevens, Melissa M. (2010). Seafood Watch: Monkfish Report (PDF). Monterey Bay Aquarium. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-16.
  14. ^ "Monkfish taken off menu at Asda". BBC News Online. 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2010-05-11.

Further reading

  • Payne, J. F.., White, Dave., Coady, Jamie. Potential Effects of Seismic Airgun Discharges on Monkfish Eggs (Lophius Americanus) and Larvae. Canada: Environmental Studies Research Funds, 2009.
  • Monkfish Fishery Regulations, Northeast Multispecies Fishery, Fishery Management Plan (FMP) Amendment 9, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Off the New England and Mid-Atlantic Coast: Environmental Impact Statement. United States: n.p., 1999.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Angler". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 15.