Go on: take a guess! What type of Frogfish do you think this is?
Surprisingly, it is an Antennarius striatus, or what is commonly referred to as a Hairy Frogfish. As it turns out the Hairy Frogfish comes in all hair lengths in Lembeh, including extremely short hair! Since this is a little known fact amongst our guests, this cool little critter caused a bit of a stir when it was spotted as a mated couple to a long-haired Hairy Frogfish. The guests were sure they were witnessing “inter-species” coupling!
So how does a diver correctly identify a Hairy Frogfish if not all Hairy Frogfish are hairy? Besides considering things like their size, color and habitat, one of the easiest methods of Frogfish identification is via their lure. Each Frogfish lure is made up of two parts, the rod and the bait. Surprisingly, the thread-thin rod (aka illicium) is in fact the first spine of the Frogfish’s dorsal fin! And at the end of that spine sits a piece of “bait” (aka esca) that the Frogfish uses to attract prey into closer proximity to its mouth. The length of the rod varies between Frogfish species, as does the look of the bait. For example, all Hairy Frogfish sport a distinct esca that closely resembles a worm, or a small group of worms, on the end of a mid-sized illicium. The “worm” unfurls and swells when in use as bait, appearing to be quite the tasty meal!
If the above information about Frogfish identification piqued your interest and you want to learn a bit more, check out the wonderfully informative on-line PDF authored by Teresa Zuberbuhler: http://www.critter.ch/frogfish-book.html
Within her manual you will find the answer to all sorts of questions, including the question asked on the boat about our bald Hairy Frogfish: Why was it bright white as it sat out in the middle of a huge sand patch? How is that considered camouflage? If you find the answer to that question, or have a guess to share, please post in the comments section below.