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Frogfish Behavior

Colors and Camouflage
Reproduction
Locomotion

 

Colors and Shapes

Camouflage - Changing Colors
Print version frogfish behavior - Diese Seite in Deutsch

Camouflage

Yellow Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) in the middle of a yellow sponge
Perfect camouflage:
Yellow Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) in the middle of a yellow sponge
Gray Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) on a rope
Perfect camouflage:
Gray Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) on a rope
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) - gray frogfish on gray sponge
Perfect camouflage:
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) - gray frogfish on gray sponge

Camouflage is a way to mislead the sense organs like eyes, nose or tongue into perceiving something different. Most animals use camouflage to hide from possible predators (= protective resemblance). In contrast the frogfish signals to other animals, that it is a place of shelter (rock, sponge) or a grazing ground (if is looks like algae). Having perceived the frogfish as nothing threatening, these animals approach and then get eaten. This is called aggressive resemblance.

Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) - Details of the skin that look like the openings of sponges
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) - Details of the skin that look like the openings of sponges
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - Details of skin
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - Details of skin
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) - Details of the skin with warts and moss like growthWarty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) - Details of the skin with warts and moss like growth
Striped or hairy frogfish(Antennarius striatus) - Details of skin
Striped or hairy frogfish(Antennarius striatus) - Details of skin
Striped or hairy frogfish(Antennarius striatus) - Details of skin
Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - Details of the skin appendages that look like algae
Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - Details of the skin with spinules
Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - Details of the skin with spinules

The frogfish is a master of camouflage. His body is often covered with spots, stripes, warts, skin flaps and filaments. The frogfish mimics substrate and structures like algae covered rocks or rubble, plants like Sargassum weed or algae, and animals like tunicates, corals and sponges. For example the striped frogfish (Antennarius striatus) looks with the help of skin flaps and appendages just like the algae it is hiding in. Other frogfishes look like sponges, down to the openings they immitate with spots on their skin. A newly discovered frogfish species (Histiophryne psychedelica) has stripes are all over the body that look like the patterns found on stony corals or bryozoans. The following photos show camouflaged frogfishes. Click on thumbnail for enlargement.

Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - hairy variation between algae
Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - hairy variation between algae
Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - hairy variation between algaeStriped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - hidden between sea urchins to catch cardinalfishes
Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - hairy variation between algae
Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - hairy variation between algae
Sargassum frogfish (Histrio histrio) - two frogfishes between Sargassum plants
Sargassum frogfish (Histrio histrio) - two frogfishes between Sargassum plants (Bertrand Chauvel)
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - with skin appendages which help to camouflage the fish
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - with skin appendages which help to camouflage the fish
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) - gray frogfish on gray ground
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) - gray frogfish on gray ground (Bertrand Chauvel)
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) - perfectly camouflaged
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) - perfectly camouflaged (Eddy Thys)
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - black frogfish
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - black frogfish (Bernd Leonhardt)
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) - probably with a protozoan infection on skin which enhances the camouflage effect
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) - probably with a protozoan infection on skin which enhances the camouflage effect (Mike Miller)
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - brown frogfish on brown sponge
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - brown frogfish on brown sponge
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - on a sponge on a wall
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - on a sponge on a wall (Martin von Zülow)

Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - two frogfishes on a large sponge
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) hidden among sponges
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) hidden among sponges
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - covered with a scablike growth and filamentous appendages
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) - covered with a scablike growth and filamentous appendages (Johanna Gawron)
Black Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - the appendages look like the spines of sea urchins
Black Striped or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - the appendages look like the spines of sea urchins

Changing Colors

For a long time scientists identified differently colored frogfish as separate species. Modern ichthyologists now recognize 13 (14?) genera and 48 (53?) living species worldwide (see taxonomic classification Lophiiformes, phylogenetic relationships or short description of the frogfish species). Colors are - with some exceptions - not much help in identifying frogfishes (see tips for the identification of frogfishes). This is specially true for the frogfishes belonging to the Antennarius pictus Group (more information). The giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) is also a member of this group and can show all these colors:

Click here for a list of the colors of the 48 (53?)species of frogfish.

Because of their camouflage frogfish are difficult to find and - because they assume various colors - even more difficult to identify. Individuals of the same species can look to us completely different. To compound the problem most frogfishes can change their color in a matter of days or weeks. They mimic some objects in their immediate vicinity such as sponges, rocks, corals, tunicates. If they move to darker surroundings their body will adapt and change to a darker color. You often find black frogfishes on black sponges or close to black tunicates and yellow frogfishes inside yellow sponges and the patterns on frogfish skin often resemble the openings (ostia) of sponges or the apertures of sea squirts. The aggressive mimicry and the feeding behavior of frogfishes is one of natures most highly evolved example of "lie-in-wait" predation.

In an aquarium you might be able to observe, that a frogfish changes its color to blend in with its surroundings, taking the color of a sponge or a coral. S. Michael has described a black frogfish with orange spots which turned over a one-month period first brown and then yellow with black spots. However perhaps the color change can also happen faster - during a dive the following photos of the same frogfish were taken only 2 min apart and you can see a color change from yellow to redish.

14 Antennarius commerson - thumbnail picture / Kleinbild
Copyright Nat Sumanatemeya

Some frogfish species like all the Antennatus sp.ecies don't change colors at all, only some individuals are slightly darker or lighter colored.

The following photos were taken of the same frogfish (Antennatus nummifer, ca. 7cm) at the same coral block but three days apart. The frogfish changed from pinkish to whitish.

grey spotfin frogfish (<em>Antennarius 
        nummifer</em>)

white frogfish (<em>Antennarius 
        nummifer</em>)

I identified all frogfishes (anglerfishes) to my best knowledge. Frogfishes are specially difficult to identify (see tips for identification) so mistakes are possible of course! Please write to me, if you have any questions. Latin names according to the newest scientific findings, ITIS Standard Report and Fishbase.


. Copyright Teresa Zubi