Frogfish – Antennariidae, by its scientific name – is a family of fish species belonging to the Lophiiformes order named after the special, antenna-like organ behind the head of the animals. Widespread in almost all tropical and subtropical seas and oceans except the Mediterranean, these tiny creatures are colorful and strange-looking masters of camouflage, capable of extremely slow and extremely swift movement as well.
The individuals belonging to the Antennariidae family are very small, usually ranging between 2.5 cm and 38 cm in length and they live in warm and shallow waters preferred by numerous predators, so frogfish need all the protection they can have. With nature’s help, they are pretty inaccessible – their small body is covered in spinules (small thorns protruding from their spines) and they are also capable of what science calls aggressive mimicry, a form of behavior used by predators to disguise themselves into completely harmless creatures, such as tube worms or shrimps, thus attracting their prey.
Anglerfish don’t move around too much, even though they are predators. They are not very active when hunting either – they prefer to lie motionless on the sea bed, waiting for their prey to swim by so that they can catch it. Frogfishes catch their prey with the help of the special organ called esca at the end of their antenna developed from one of the dorsal fins on the top of their head. The esca is used for following the movement of the prey and luring it by pretending to be a small fish, too. When the prey is close enough, the fish opens its mouth more than tenfold and sucks in the victim. The prey is quickly swept to the esophagus of the fish, while the water ingested during the swallowing phase leaves the animal’s body through the gills. The swallowing happens in as little as 6 milliseconds, invisible for other animals around. Frogfishes are known to engage in cannibalism as well if other sources of food are scarce.
Frogfishes are solitary creatures who spend time in the company of other individuals only during the mating season. Mating starts with courtship, which, in some cases, lasts for several days. The male approaches the female about two days prior to the egg laying, while the female starts to absorb water in her belly and swell. They reproduce by free-spawning – the female releases her eggs into the water, sometimes almost 200 thousand of them at once, and the male frogfish (Antennariidae) comes behind her and fertilizes the eggs.