Explore by Animal

Frogfish

Frogfish give “wallflower” a whole new meaning. Masters of deception, these squat and lumpy fish (family Antennariidae) can camouflage themselves with warts, filaments, stripes, spots and skin flaps to blend into their background, whether that’s a rock, a plant, or another animal. They can even change color—subtly or completely—over a few days or weeks.

Most animals use camouflage to conceal themselves from predators; frogfish exploit it in seducing prey. An unsuspecting fish might nestle into what it thinks is a sheltering rock, or try to eat what might be algae. Then WHAM! The frogfish juts out its jaws and guzzles it up—in 6 milliseconds. A frogfish’s mouth cavity can expand to 12 times its size, allowing it to ingest prey that are 25 percent longer.

Frogfish have built-in fishing rods to assist in this aggressive feeding behavior. A fleshy “antenna” that dangles from its head ends in a lure, which can mimic the shape and movement of a small animal, like a squirming shrimp or wriggling worm. This lure will grow back if another fish bites it off. Frogfish also have legs, sort of. Lacking a swim bladder, a frogfish’s modified pectoral fins help it walk, even gallop, across the seafloor. This environment is recreated in its habitat in Wild Reef.

It’s difficult to distinguish males from females, except during spawning. The female swells up with eggs. Once spawning occurs, a ribbon-like veil of eggs drifts for days until sinking to the bottom. Parenting usually ends there, when the enigmatic frogfish returns to its lair and lies in wait for its next meal to arrive.

 

Check out new photos of Shedd's Wild Reef exhibit.

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