Environment

The Most Psychedelic Fish On Earth

Image: David Hall The Psychedelic Frogfish is not only funky looking (read: trippy) on the outside; its forward-facing eyes are extremely rare for fish, allowing

posted on 12/15/2009
Simone Preuss
Scribol Staff

Psychedelic frogfishPhoto:
Image: David Hall

The Psychedelic Frogfish is not only funky looking (read: trippy) on the outside; its forward-facing eyes are extremely rare for fish, allowing it to have the same kind of depth perception that humans have. As well as this, its colourful, scaleless skin actually mimics the kind of coral it can be found around, reason for us to take a closer look at this anglerfish and its habitat.

Psychedelic ball – notice how all the stripes come together at the eyes:
Ball shapePhoto:
Image: David Hall

The psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) is a new species of 2009 – it was first described in the scientific journal Copeia by zoologists Ted Pietsch, Rachel Arnold, and David Hall. At 15 cm (6 cm), it is not small and must surely be striking. Frogfishes belong to the Antennariidae family and are a type of anglerfish. Unlike the latter, though, the psychedelic frogfish does not have the characteristic fleshy growth on the head, used for luring or angling prey.

Each fish has its own beautiful, unique pattern, like a fingerprint:
Unique patternPhoto:
Image: David Hall

Like a typical frogfish, its skin is flabby, fleshy and scaleless. It may even be covered in protective mucus when swimming close to coral to avoid tearing. The fish’s skin pattern with its yellowish, brown and white stripes is – similar to a zebra’s – unique to each individual, a fact that allows scientists to identify different psychedelic frogfish in the wild quite easily. The pattern mimics the hard corals commonly found in its native habitat, the sea around Bali, Indonesia.

Fish or coral?
Fish or coralPhoto:
Image: David Hall

A not so distant cousin – a juvenile Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus):
Painted FrogfishPhoto:
Image: Stephen Childs

The turquoise dots in the fish’s face are actually not the eyes but brightly coloured patches around them, making the eyes look larger. This and the fact that the psychedelic frogfish can expand its head and extend its mouth forward, thus elongating the head to a shape more often seen in large fish, may indicate the fish’s strategy of looking larger and more impressive than it is, maybe to startle potential predators.

Hullo, did I startle you?
FacePhoto:
Image: David Hall

As mentioned earlier, the fish’s forward-facing eyes allow it to experience depth perception similar to that of humans, an unusual characteristic for most fish. This comes in handy given that, like most frogfish, the psychedelic frogfish doesn’t move very much but rather waits for prey to come to it, following it with its eyes and then sucking it in in just six milliseconds!

Don’t get too close to that mouth…
With open mouthPhoto:
Image: David Hall

When it does move, though, a frogfish uses jet propulsion – that means walking on its pectoral fins over the seafloor rather than swimming. Plus, the fish takes on a ball shape and shoots water through its gills to propel itself forward, making it look like, well, in the scientists’ words “an inflated rubber ball bouncing along the bottom.” An astonishing fish, we think, from whatever angle you look at it, and what a find!

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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Simone Preuss
Scribol Staff