Longlure Frogfishes, Antennarius multiocellatus
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Description & Behavior
Longlure frogfishes, Antennarius multiocellatus (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1837), are a short round species. They are small fishes, generally not exceeding 20 cm. Their skin is thick and covered in highly modified scales called dermal spicules. These spicules are prickly in appearance and resemble the warts of a toad. This frogfish has small eyes, a very large mouth that is directed upwards and their pectoral fins are situated on stalks. Their gill openings are very small and located behind their pectoral fins.
The basic color of longlure frogfishes is highly variable, ranging from pale yellow to bright red or dark green to reddish brown. There are black spots scattered across the body no matter what the base color. "Multiocellatus" means "many eye-like spots" in Latin. They also have a phase where the body is completely black, except for the ends of the paired fins which are white and a pale area that resembles a saddle on their back. They are commonly found lying in or near sponges in shallow waters around coral reefs. Longlure frogfishes generally conform to the color of the dominant sponge in the area, with the spots resembling the incurrent openings of the sponges.
World Range & Habitat
Longlure frogfishes are confined to the tropical western part of the Atlantic ocean. They are found from Bermuda and the Bahamas to the coasts of Central and South America. They inhabit shallow reefs and are commonly found in areas with sponges at depth ranges of 0-66 m.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
The name "longlure" is a direct reference to the elongated illicium which they use as a fishing lure. The illicium is the first spine of their dorsal fin, which is highly modified into a long rod with a lure at the end. This frogfish will lie in a sponge and wait for a fish to swim by. It will then wiggle the lure around in order to attract the prey. It is capable of swallowing fish that are larger in size than itself. They eat mostly fishes, but have been known to also occasionally snack on crabs and mantis shrimps. Just like a recreational fisher, these frogfish move to a different location if fish aren't biting. The frogfish is reported to be one of the fastest animals alive. They can extend their mouth and suck in prey in about 1/6th of second and only high-speed cameras can catch the action.
A unique feature of the frogfish family is that their eggs are spawned encapsulated in a buoyant mass of mucus, referred to as an "egg raft." This structure may serve as a transport for moving a large number of eggs over large geographical distances. Spawning can be dangerous for the frogfish due to the cannibalistic nature of the species. The male and female march across the bottom before spawning, with the female leading and the male close behind. His snout usually is in immediate contact with her vent. The female is bloated with eggs during this time, often swelling to twice her normal size. The pair will then make a dash to the surface and the egg mass bursts from the female. The frogfish may spawn several times over the next few weeks.
Conservation Status & Comments
Longlure frogfishes are not considered a good aquarium fish due to the voracity of their appetite. This species is a delight to see in the wild, but it takes a very good observer to pick out most frogfishes when they are camouflaged.
References & Further Research
Research Antennarius multiocellatus » Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS
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