Shorefishes of the Eastern Pacific online information system

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Family: ANTENNARIIDAE, Frogfishes

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

globular, compressed
D III, 1st = fish pole on head
teeth small
pelvic & pectoral like legs
gill open behind-below pectoral



These unusual fishes, which reach 50 cm, have globular somewhat compressed bodies; head not spiny; eyes on sides of head; a very large, upward directed mouth with many small teeth; and a greatly modified first dorsal spine, termed the illicium, at the top front of the head, that forms a moveable "fishing rod" tipped with an enticing lure (the esca); a small round gill opening below and behind pectoral base; limb-like pectoral fins with an "elbow" joint; leg-like pelvic fin before pectoral.

The fishing rod is wiggled vigorously to attract fish preys that are swallowed whole. However, they do not always use their luring apparatus and are able to slowly stalk fishes or crustaceans. Frogfishes can engulf prey longer than themselves as their abdomen can expand enormously. They are masters of camouflage. Their colours closely correspond to that of their surroundings, frequently bright coloured encrusting sponges. Gravid females expel a buoyant "raft" of up to 300,000 eggs which remains afloat for several days until hatching.

Frogfishes occur in all tropical and temperate seas. This circumglobal, tropical to subtropical family contains 14 genera and a total of 46 species; with five species in two genera found in our area.