The ocean is home to a huge diversity of creatures. Some are agile hunters, others are graceful travellers and others are... well... odd. Meet the warty frogfish in the Skretting Diversity Gallery at the Two Oceans Aquarium - definitely a candidate for the latter category, and an absolutely remarkable example of ocean weirdness at its finest!

Photo courtesy of Michelle Kirshenbaum.

This small fish is notable for its oddly-shaped, globular body with all sorts of protuberances and spinules that it can morph and move to camouflage itself. It can even change colour to blend into its background. It usually prefers shades of red and yellow, but can even turn completely white if needed.

A frogfish can easily change its colour to blend into the nearest sea sponge. Photos courtesy of Michelle Kirshenbaum.

This camouflage allows the frogfish to blend in with the surface of a sea sponge to ambush prey - which is where its second marvellous adaptation comes into play. The frogfish has a huge, huge mouth! In fact, its jaws can swing so far open that it can swallow fish that are the same size at itself! But this raises the question, how does a fish that is as clumsy looking as a frogfish actually get close enough to catch prey?

Photo courtesy of Jatara Travel.

In comes awesome adaptation number three - the frogfish is actually an anglerfish in disguise. What's an anglerfish, you ask? Anglerfish are a group of fishes that use modified fins as lures to entice their prey close to their mouths. You might be familiar with the deep-sea variety of anglerfish:

Finding Nemo made anglerfish quite famous, but there is more to this family of fish than just the deep-sea predator shown here.

Like the anglerfish, the frogfish also has a lure it can use to attract prey. The first spine of its dorsal fin (that's the fin on its back) has been modified to serve as a "fishing rod" which has a lure that looks like a small fish on the end. It is able to move this lure in front of its mouth - looking like a delicious treat to an unsuspecting fish (which is soon to be a snack)!

We think the frogfish deserves some love - it might not be the pretty, but it sure is pretty awesome!

Credit: Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium

Bonus frogfish facts:

  • One of the reasons its movement looks so clumsy is that it doesn't have normal pectoral fins (the fins most fish use for balance and braking). Instead, its have been thickened to form "legs" that it uses to hold itself dead still while waiting for an ambushee.
  • The frogfish's skin absorbs UV light, making it fluoresce red light - this is how they are able to see each other even when camouflaged.
  • The scientific name for the lure on the end of its "fishing rod" is esca - which is Latin for "bait."
  • The frogfish is fiercely solitary, and other than the act of mating they do not interact with each other. In fact, females commonly eat males who hang around for too long after mating!
  • A frogfish is able to strike a prey in as little as 6 milliseconds after its lure is touched. That is 50 times faster than the blink of an eye!
  • The binomial name of the warty frogfish is Antennarius maculatus, which simply means "spotted antennae."
How many frogfish can you spot in this photo? Photo courtesy of Aaqib Malan.
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