Biology: The Frogfish

by   Profile Herbert   When 26th August 2015
Frogfish sometimes looks as if they come from another planet (c) Karlheinz Grosch, Archiv Taucher.Net
Here, the worm-like bait on the frogfish's lure can easily be seen (c) Karlheinz Grosch, Archiv Taucher.Net
A typical picture: This frogfish is supported by its pectoral fins (c) TomTom, Archiv Taucher.Net
Two frogfish specimens from the deep - © left: Diceratiidae: Bufoceratias shaoi [Pietsch, Ho, and Chen, 101 mm SL, ASIZP 61796 (Photo by H.-C. Ho)]; right: Melanocetidae: Melanocetus eustales (Pietsch and Van Duzer, 93 mm SL, SIO 55-229) - from Evolutionary History of anglerfishes (Wikipedia)

Incredibly Fast “Suckers”

Finding a frogfish is the tough part. Once you do, taking photos of it
is relatively easy, since they remain motionless in an attempt to evade
detection. Looking at them, it is hard to imagine how this odd-looking
sedate critter could be capable of the record-breaking speed at which
they catch their prey.

Information about the frogfish

No. of species:
about 50 species


up to 35cm

Soil and reef

Perfectly disguised and rather “unfish-like”

How can I find a frogfish?
Who among us can spot a frogfish that doesn't want to be found? Not
easy, eh? Well, that's the way it's supposed to be! We may at times
spot an eye or a fin amidst the background of the reef, and then
realise that we've actually been looking at a frogfish. Yes, the
frogfish is indeed a odd fellow, that disguising itself as a sea
squirt, or just zoning out (or appearing to!) on the seabed trying to
look as harmless as that familiar old shag pile in our living rooms.

Fishing for food

The frogfish is also called the anglerfish, thanks to its modified
dorsal fin that's built like a fishing rod. At the end of it is a lure
that looks like a shrimp or worm. The frogfish waves it around in a way
that mirrors the movements of the bait, completing the enticing
illusion for any unfortunate prey.

Six milliseconds to catch prey
0.006 seconds. That's the incredible speed at which the frogfish can
expand its mouth so that it creates a strong vacuum that sucks the
unfortunate prey in. Once the prey is inside the stomach, the water
that was also sucked in is then ejected. All this, in six-thousandth of
a single second. Now, to call that a split second still doesn't quite
do it justice.

Strolling through the reef
In contrast, when moving to a new location, the frogfish prefers to
crawl and climb around the reef using its pelvic fins. If danger
strikes, it swiftly flees the scene by swimming away.

"Photographing frogfish isn't difficult; the tough part is finding them!
Old saying among divers

Indeed, filming the frogfish as it catches prey is tough, due to the
speed of the capture. By the time you start to press the shutter
button, the prey would already be in the frogfish's tummy. Even with a
flash sync speed of 1/60 second, it's still too slow!

Fantastic Frogfish Video:
A great video (shown at the San Diego Underwater Film Festival) depicts
the frogfish in some fantastic sequences (from 0:38). This video
provides a good insight into the locomotion and hunting methods of the

Thanks to Denise Glazer (Purple Twins) for her permission to
post the video:

Written by
Profile Herbert
When 26th August 2015
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