Today we are going to be looking at many peoples favourite animals underwater, the frogfish of Lembeh. They are a firm favourite among all divers but can you identify what each one is?
It always makes a dive more enjoyable when you know what creature you’re looking at and with so many varieties of this weird and wonderful animal in Lembeh it can be quite difficult to tell what’s what.
Some frogfish are obvious, for example, the hairy frogfish is unmistakable, but what about a small painted frogfish in its black phase? Frogfish are ambush predators and have developed the ability to change colour in order to match their surroundings, making the task of identification that bit trickier. There are a variety of different features which can be used to differentiate between species although these can be very subtle.
First of all, you need to make sure that fish you are looking at is indeed a Frogfish. They are usually quite obvious and can be described as globular in shape with upturned mouths. Their pectoral fins have evolved into webbed, hand-like appendages which they use to walk along the seafloor. They are also referred to as Anglerfish due to their first dorsal spine evolving into a stalk with a lure attached to the end. Once you sure it is a frogfish then you can look at the details.
In order to correctly ID a frogfish, it helps to know what can be found in the area in the first place. Common Lembeh frogfish include Giant, Warty (Clown), Painted, Ocellated, Sargassum and of course Striated (Hairy).
Giant Frogfish: Large with few warty projections; highly variable in colour. They seem to be able to change to any colour with black, brown, white, green, orange, pink, red and green all being observed. May display pepper like spots and vague variably-sized spots.
Warty (Clown): Smallish with numerous knob-like warts; the variable colour usually with reddish-brown saddles and blotches. Frequently among algae, sponges and soft corals.
Painted Frogfish: Similar to warty frogfish but warts generally less pronounced and absent in juveniles. Colour and marking patterns highly variable, most have spots of varying size.
Ocellated: Black to brown with large pale to orange edged black spot on the base of rear dorsal fin rays that extends onto the back. These are very rare throughout the Indo-pacific and have only officially been identified in Lembeh.
Sargassum: Shades of brown to yellow with skin flaps, random lines, spots and dusky blotches. Usually solitory but many individuals may inhabit the same float of Sargassum seaweed. In Sargassum or other algae patches near surface near shore to open ocean.
Striated (Hairy): Long lure with worm-like tip; highly variable colouration usually with dark zebra-like banding and often filamentous skin appendages. Frequently on sand or mud bottoms.
All these descriptions are taken from our Fish ID book in our resorts (Reef Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific. Gerald Allen et al.) and alongside our expert guides, between the two there isn’t much they can’t identify. Use both resources when you write up your logbooks and we are sure they will be able to assist you in identifying anything you see under the water.