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Family Antennariidae
Frogfishes
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned)
Order: Lophiiformes

Key Features:
Frogfishes are squat-bodied fishes with a wealth of textured protrusions utilized to mimic their surrounding environments.  These fishes are masterful camouflage artists. Their skills in camouflage do well to balance their pitiful swimming abilities.  Most are benthic waddlers, although there is at least one pelagic species in the Atlantic.   Besides their unique appearances and locomotion, frogfish also possess a remarkable hunting strategy. Utilizing a highly modified first dorsal spine as a fishing pole (ilicum) tipped with a fleshy lure (esca), frogfish are able to lure prey to their immense mouths.    



Notable Species in the Sea of Cortez

Antennatus strigatus
Bandtail Frogfish
Antennarius avalonis
Roughjaw Frogfish
Antennarius sanguineus
Sanguine Frogfish
 
 
 
 

Giant Frogfish Antennarius commerson

Unidentified Frogfish
Possibly Antennarius commerson, which is absent in the Gulf of California, but is present along the Pacific coast of Baja, mainland Mexico, and in the Revillagigedo Islands.

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Family Antennariidae
Frogfishes (Peces pescadores)


Like the seahorses, frogfishes are relatively abundant in the Sea of Cortez but are rarely observed by scuba divers.  They possess some of the most convincing camouflage of any fish family.  With remarkably accurate skin coloration and texture, combined with a uniquely pudgy and lumpy body they are able to effectively mimic a sponge, rock or coral from their natural habitat.  There is even a pelagic species in the Sargasso Sea, the Sargassum fish, Histrio histrio, that blends superbly with the floating sargassum mats in the mid-Atlantic gyre. 

The roughjaw frogfish, Antennarius avalonis, is the most common species within the Sea of Cortez.  Small juveniles up to four inches total length have been found while snorkeling in the tidepools of Puerto Penasco.  Their range extends throughout the Gulf to Cabo San Lucas and as far south as Peru and the Galapagos Islands. 

Squat would be a word that well-describes this family.  Often resembling a slightly deflated basketball, these fishes are characteristically poor swimmers.  In fact, their preferred form of locomotion is a hopping waddle utilizing modified pectoral and pelvic fins for walking, while the caudal fin only provides brief bursts of energy.  These fishes are excellent lie-in-wait predators, and can swallow other fishes that are nearly their own size.  In one captive breeding pair, the female happily ate her mate following copulation, a behavior that has been echoed in various reports. 

In addition to their cavernous mouths, frogfishes also possess a specialized appendage on their lower lip that waggles enticingly to bring curious prey within reach.  Despite their  occasional propensity towards cannibalism these fishes are generally found in monogamous pairs.  Scuba divers saw one such pair of frogfish for over ten years, living under the same rock on the north face of Isla San Pedro Nolasco, Sonora.  They finally moved to deeper water when a hurricane rearranged their nest site.  A deep-water species of this family takes monogamy to the extreme.  In this case, when a male finds his mate, he bites into her abdomen and begins feeding on her blood.  He remains attached and eventually merges his circulatory system with hers forming a permanent pair bond.  Compared to the female, the male is quite petite, typically with a body mass less than five percent of that of the females. 

 

Updated August 28, 2009

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