Frogfish, the fish with superpowers

Ocean Critters

Ranelle Ivens

SITE AUTHOR

Ranelle’s addiction to SCUBA started in 2004. From a young age she has been fascinated by the ocean and the creatures living within it. Her Ultimate dive dream is to swim with Orcas and to dive the world. Ranelle is a certified PADI Specialty Instructor and spent 3 years in university studying Science and Biology.

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Frogfish, or as I like to call them, the pug of the ocean, is a species of fish that is unique and interesting. These adorably ugly fish are a favourite among many divers as they can be very rare and difficult to spot. Being a type of anglerfish they are fascinating to watch, and sometimes exhibit odd and endearing behaviours.

What is Heck is a frogfish?

Most people have no idea what a frogfish is, simply because they are hard to find, and so they’ve never heard of them. As I mentioned earlier its an anglerfish, meaning it uses a lure to catch its prey. This means that they don’t move much. Instead, they prefer to camouflage themselves and lie in wait like little ninjas. Frogfish have a toad-like appearance and open and extend their mouths like a frog, hence the name.

 

Where do they live?

There are around 47 known species of frogfish and they can be found all over the world. Including salt, brackish, and freshwater environments. Meaning they are quite adaptable! However, they are not found in the Arctic nor the Mediterranean sea. Generally, these little dudes like an average water that’s 20 C (68 F) or warmer. I don’t blame them either, who likes living in the cold? As a result of their temperature preferences, frogfish don’t live very deep but have been found in up to 100M (330 ft) of water. In my experience, they are 4-10M (10-30 ft) deep.

You could also attribute their prefered depth and temperatures to their living environment. Camouflage is very important for this animal, and because of that, they live on the ocean floor. Usually, on reefs or near corals as this gives them lots of places to hide in plain sight, though some do hunt in the sand

The Hunter and the Hunted

Being an anglerfish, you must wonder what this fish fishes for. The answer actually depends on the species of frogfish. Different kinds of frogfish have different lures, each specializing in attracting different kinds of food. The lure is actually called an esca. Some mimic shrimp, small fish, tubeworms, or bristle worms. What is even more interesting, is that the esca can be regenerated, just in case dinner gets a little bitey. Though, it would be pretty hard for the frogfish’s prey to eat the esca, as the frogfish will catch and swallow its prey in about 6 milliseconds. So fast that other animals can’t even see it happen.

In those 6 milliseconds, the frogfish will open its mouth, sucking water and it’s prey inside. It will then swallow its dinner expelling the water from its gills. In addition to this, the frogfish has a special muscle that will trap the prey inside so it can’t escape. Believe it or not, a frogfish can eat prey that’s up to twice its size! Not only can it expand its mouth, but its stomach as well. Watch the video above to see what I mean.

Ninja Skills

Apart from being able to move lightning fast and gobble up prey twice its size, the frogfish can blend into the reef and even mimic other animals. Like ninjas, frogfish don’t have much in the way of armour. They have no scales but instead a soft squishy skin that can change colour. (Did you know Seahorses also change colour?!?) In addition to this, their skin has a unique texture to it. The texture will depend on the species but will allow them to mimic sponges of corals. Alternatively, some frogfish grow algae on their bodies to help them blend in.

In comparison to adult frogfish, the babies camouflage a little differently. Instead of trying to mimic their surroundings they will impersonate other animals. Usually, they will disguise themselves as a venomous nudibranch (sea slug) to deter predators. By now you must be wondering what it is they are trying to hide from. The reason behind all the cloak and shadow is due to their primary predators; damselfish, wrasses and clownfish. As you may know, especially in the case of damselfish and wrasses there are MANY of them in the marine environment making hiding difficult. Luckily Frogfish are mini ninjas

Frogfish have a Superpower

Who knew these ugly little fish were so damn cool right? So what is their superpower? I like to call it JET BURST! What it is, is a unique propulsion method. The frogfish will suck water into their mouths and push it out of gills located behind their pectoral fins. The force of the expelling water shoots them forward like a jet. This technique gives them a burst of speed allowing them to quickly escape predators. And, if you pair Jet Burst, along with the fact that their mouths can expand up to 12x their normal size, these lazy fish can actually move pretty fast.  

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