The Secret World of Frogfish

Very few creatures on earth are as interesting or diverse as the frogfish. The discovery of one on a dive can excite any self-respecting diver or photographer as everyone want’s to get a chance to see it.  At first glance the frogfish remains motionless, appearing as a large headed globose and scabby creature that could hardly fend for themselves. But in reality the frogfish is a calculating and veracious predator that has truly mastered their domain. What makes them so unique isn’t just their coloration, size or texture or the ability to remain motionless for hours at a time. It isn’t even the little jets behind their legs that helps them swim, what makes them truly unique is that they are all a type of anglerfish that come equipped with a fishing rod and lure. If that isn’t enough to grab a photographers attention then im not sure what is, so lets take a quick peek at a few more uncommon facts of these amazing critters in the secret world of frogfish.

 A colorful Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculata) is caught in the act hunting for its next meal. Frogfish use their rod and lure to excite and attract their prey by repeatedly extending and flicking their lure creating an irresistible appearance of an easy meal. Its the unique rod and lure that describes all frogfish in the order of Lophiiformes and according to research this suborder of antennae bearing fish comprises 14 genera and more the 46 species worldwide

Ranging in color even within the same species is not uncommon making them tough to identify. This yellow warty is squaring off with my lens port evidently having had enough of my presence. Looking closely you can see that the lure has sustained damage and is now bent to one side.

The most common of the bunch is also the largest which makes sense as they are probably the easiest to spot. The commersons (commersoni) can grow up to 45 centimeters tall when fully grown and prefer reefs and walls. I speculate that these two are probably males that haven’t reached maturity. They cohabitated on the same coral head in 30 meters of water for over a year and perhaps settled here during their larval state

The smallest fully grown frogfish is the miniscule pygmy frogfish (tuberosi) which when fully grown will reach a maximum size of 1.25 centimeters. Found living amongst rubble in the shallows near runoffs and estuaries.

Mating and Spawning - Mate selection occurs with males, book-ending the female until one of the males finally gives up.

Spawning frogfish

Frogfish are cast spawners. The male pushes the female or follows the female up into the water column where she releases her eggs, simultaneously he discharges his sperm onto the eggs, fertilizing them. 
This is both an effective and efficient way of fertilizing a large mass of eggs, all at once. 
The eggs are released in what looks like a small capsule which quickly unfurls into a ribbon which then floats on the current. The eggs mature and eventually settle to the substrate.

A freshly settled frogfish

Camouflaged hunters, the Hairy Frogfish  (Antennarius striatus)  are amongst the most sought after critters worldwide and are considered a holly grail find for photographers and divers alike.  They can range from pink to black in color but typically have visible lines or stripes on their body. The A. striatus is normally found on the substrate or perched just above it. They will live out their entire lifecycle here and have adapted some very unique survival tactics in the process including an oversized worm like lure, the use of pheromones to hunt and its namesake hairy appendages. Yawning amongst all frogfish could be a show of stress or aggression or even an attempt at appearing larger than what they really are to ward off the paparazzi.  

A classic shot of a hairy frogfish (A. striatus)
Using is worm-like lure to entice its prey.

The Monster-Black A. striatus

The Black version of the hairy frogfish is considered rare and was a treat to see. It proves how adaptive frogfish fish can be even within the same species. The black coloration helps it to black with the black sands of the region and is said to mimic black spiny urchins

  Courting A.striatus
The male is attracted by an irresistible pheromone produced by the female.

Antisocial Behavior in frogfish is often seen before a mating cycle has begun. The pushy male just wont take NO! for an answer. The female was a little more than irritated by her male suitor and let him have it. There isnt any exterior organs or markings to tell a male frogfish apart from a female but the behavior can sometimes give it away.

Ambon frogfish

The Ambon frogfish mimics deep water sponges and are one of the few frogfish that actually carries their eggs. They do this by cupping their eggs against their body with their tail. They carry their eggs and will sit in one place brooding them unless disturbed. 

Frogfish are certainly an incredibly morphed subject with wild behavior, appearances and behavior which makes them one of my favorite subjects of all time. This of course in addition to every other marine creature.