Waiting for Dinner

Living Art: Color, Form, and Deadly Beauty.

Nestled in camouflage and coral at the bottom of a large piece of rock is a an example of the deadly art of the frogfish.  His portrait reminds me of the saying “A face that only a mother could love.”   What is so unusual about this fish is that is another example of how nature uses color and form to once again create an animal of deadly skill.

Waiting for dinner is one of the strangest looking fish I’ve ever had the pleasure of capturing in a picture.  This is a full-bodied size photograph of a cold-blooded killer.  Scientists refer to it as Fowlerichthys ocellatus,  or Antennarius ocellatus.   While we of more humbler origin simply refer to it as a frogfish or angler.

Waiting for DinnerAccording to frogfish.ch this fish can reach a size of up to 38 cm.   They ambush their prey and are quite obviously the last thing you’d want to get near if you were another fish.

What amazes me about this particular picture is the frogfish’s ability  to blend into the surrounding coral.  That nature would supply any animal with such a mastery in the art of camouflage to simultaneously hunt its prey and hide from other predators is astounding.

They just place themselves among the coral and use their fins as a foot to support their weight as they hide.  Their bodies sometimes have membranes and plates that breakup their form and hiding them among the rocks. The fins even have small nobs that act as small primitive fingers to grip the rock underneath them.

It is not unusual for them to be seen with algae for other forms of marine plants growing on them.  This allows the fish to blend in with his surroundings even more.  When you combine this with the colors and patterns they have, their prey doesn’t stand a chance.

When it comes to hunting they have two techniques that they use with devastating efficiency.  The first is to just sit motionless and let the prey come to them.  Once in range their huge mouth engulfs the prey and swallows it whole.

These fish are known for swallowing fish as big as they are!  They are even hostile to their own kind and will commit acts of cannibalism without thought.  They will tolerate other frogfish only during mating and even then for only so long.  Overtax your welcome with this fish and you end up on its menu.

The other form of hunting this fish is famous for is closely related to the first in that they sit on the coral and wait motionless.   Meanwhile,  they extend small fibers from the ends of a protrusion above their mouths to float in the current.   These fish will wiggle these fibers as a lure for other fish.

The poor unsuspecting prey thinks it will be scoring an easy meal and tries to strike the lure.  As they do so, they  realize their mistake to late and end up swallowed whole.

The formula in nature is simple.  Color+Form+Function= Deadly Beauty.

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