Hawaiian Marine Life Profiles: Fish

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Common Name:

Frog Fishes

Hawaiian Name:


Scientific Name:


Found in Exhibit:

Mid Reef

Just off the coast of Maui, small schooling fish are swimming along the reef when quicker than the blink of an eye, one fish disappears. It happens so fast that the other fish in the school don't even realize it. Upon closer investigation, it appears that the missing fish has fallen victim to a frogfish, a species with incredible camouflage and an even more amazing ability to engulf prey in less than 10 milliseconds. Frogfish have the fastest 'gape and suck' of any fish, and possibly the fastest prey capture in the animal kingdom.

From a distance, frogfish can resemble sponges or algae covered rocks, with loose, scale-less skin and color that matches the background. When the unsuspecting prey is close enough, the frogfish can open its mouth at least ten times wider than its resting position and suck in prey that is almost as long as itself. Frogfish can not only surprise prey that unknowingly comes too close, but they can attract hungry fish or invertebrates with bait and a 'fishing pole' that hangs from the top of the head directly in front of the mouth. The first dorsal spine is modified into the lure which generally resembles a small shrimp, worm, or fish, and can be wiggled to attract predators that then become prey. If the lure is damaged in the 'fishing' process, it will eventually regenerate. When not hunting, the bait becomes smaller and usually remains close to the head.

To avoid being eaten by predators and improve the chances of catching prey, frogfish generally remain motionless. To aid in being undetected, their small gill openings, which pulse as water is expelled from the gills, are hidden behind fins. Unlike most fish, they lack a swim bladder, although frogfish can move by 'walking' on their modified fins. To move quickly, frogfish use jet propulsion by drawing in water through the mouth and forcing it out through the small gill openings.

There are estimated to be 50 species of frogfish in the world; however, only 10 are known to inhabit Hawaiian waters. Most frogfish remain in shallow water and near coral reefs. Deep sea frogfish, also known as anglerfish, sometimes have glowing lures to attract their prey. Another type of frogfish, the sargassum fish, lives in the open ocean and floats around on large masses of seaweed.

Most animals use camouflage to avoid being eaten, though frogfish also use their incredible ability to remain unnoticed to increase the amount of prey that would venture near its mouth. Frogfish can not only suck prey into their mouths without any witnesses, but have somehow evolved 'wiggle-able' bait to lure prey. It can't get any easier than that. What a wonderful world!

PDF: frogfish.pdf