SNEAKY, FREAKY FROGFISH: What? These weird-looking blobs with legs are FISH? Yup -and awesome ones at that!

SNEAKY, FREAKY FROGFISH: What? These weird-looking blobs with legs are FISH? Yup -and awesome ones at that!

Elizabeth Schleichert

Why are they called frogfish? Well, take a look: They’re about the same shape as frogs–lumpy and stubby. And they rest just the way frogs do– propped up on their front “legs.”

A frogfish’s legs are really thick, stubby fins. These same fins help a frogfish do something totally unfishy–walk s-l-o-w-l-y, step-by-step on the sea floor. It may follow its prey that way.

Most frogfish live in warm, shallow oceans. They hang out on seabeds. There they sit for hours, waiting for a tasty meal, such as a small fish, to swim by.

DISGUISES FOOL EYES

A frogfish’s body may be covered with bumps and lumps or fringes and flaps. This makes the fish look like just another seabed plant or animal.

A frogfish is also disguised by its colors. Frogfish come in many shades, from brownish-gray to dazzling white, red, or yellow. Even the same kind of frogfish can show very different colors. And frogfish can change color too. So they often wind up looking like nearby sponges, coral, or seaweed. For example, a brown frogfish may turn red among red sponges. Some fish change color in a few minutes–others take days or weeks.

All these tricks help the frogfish hide and survive in a fish- eat-fish world!

ONE FISH, TWO FISH

Even divers who know where to look for frogfish get fooled: They often can’t spot these camouflaged characters! And for a while all that fishy color-switching had scientists confused too. Because of those different disguises, experts once thought there were 165 species (kinds) of frogfish. But today, most scientists agree that there are really only about 40 species.

GONE FISHIN’

Don’t be fooled by a frogfish’s quiet pose. The fish is really a fierce hunter. It sits completely still for hours on the sea floor. All that moves is a tiny piece of flesh attached to the fish’s snout. It wriggles like a worm or a fishing lure.

This wriggling lure often attracts small fish. As soon as one swims over, the frogfish’s huge mouth flies open and instantly sucks it in. This ambush is the quickest of any fish’s in the sea. Often it happens so fast that other small fish nearby don’t even see it or sense the danger. So they may swim too close and end up as a frogfish snack themselves.

Frogfish may be weird-looking, but they sure know how to snag a snack!

COPYRIGHT 2000 National Wildlife Federation

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group