Frogfishes! Always fun to see and wherever they are found often the stars of the local diving critters. Lembeh delivers frogfish in so many shapes, sizes, and colours, that you could spend a week or more just checking out the varieties here in the strait. Well, maybe not shapes as most are more or less shaped like a hybrid of a ball and a fish, with the expected agility of such a creature! The last two days, we have seen painted, spotfin, giant, warty, hispid and striated frogfish and the striated has shown both it´s shorthaired and longhaired version.
So what are frogfish? All frogfish are small to medium sized sit and wait predators, that tend to find a more or less species-specific spot where their specific camouflage can be used. As an example giant and painted frogfish are most often found in or next to sponges, where the frogfish blends in in an amazing way with the colour and texture of the sponge. Another example is the hairy frogfish, which most often will be found right next to small colonies of corals with long tentacles on their polyps, giving a surprisingly efficient illusion of the frogfish being part of the coral colony.
Making the illusion even more thorough, frogfish do not have gill covers like most other fish, but expels the water flushing over their gills through small holes at the base of the pectoral fins. Thus no moving gill covers will alert any predator or prey that there is a rather tasty or dangerous, depending on perspective, frogfish just in front of you.
Frogfish, or anglerfish, which is their proper name, use their famous fishing rod called an illicium that is tipped with a lure, a so-called esca. The lure is waved in front of the mouth of the frogfish and, as the frogfish itself blends in with whatever it is sitting on or next to, passing fish cannot believe their luck when they see such a tasty morsel being available. The passing fish will approach and try to catch the lure, but will soon find itself in the stomach of the frogfish. In contrast to the sluggish and otherwise slow life style of frogfish, they actually are able to perform one of the quickest movements in the animal kingdom. The extension of the mouth and subsequent inhalation of water is over in milliseconds, often giving an illusion of pure magic when one observes a small fish in front of a frogfish suddenly just not there any more!
This afternoon’s dive will partly be spent in search of the elusive Randall´s frogfish. This small species is very cryptic, spending most of it´s time in rubble or clumps of dead sea weed. It is really hard to find, so luckily we can have a try tomorrow again. And the day after! The good thing about looking for almost impossible stuff here in the strait is that you will see so much cool other stuff while trying, so it is highly likely that we more or less will forget whatever it was we started out with looking for!