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Frogfish Behavior

Colors and Camouflage
Reproduction
Locomotion

 

Reproduction

Reproduction: Mating Behavior - Brood care - Baby Frogfishes - Luring - Growing up
Print version frogfish behavior - Diese Seite in Deutsch

Mating Behavior

There are no means to differ the male and female frogfish, for example by coloration or size except by examining the gonads by dissection.

The following photos show the courtship and spawning behavior of several species of frogfishes. About 8 to 12 hours prior to spawning, the female begins to fill up with eggs (40'000 to 180'000 eggs). The eggs measure around half a millimeter. This proceeds at a rapid rate so that shortly before spawning she is so distended, it is hard for her to maintain her position on the bottom. She becomes buoyant (tail up as shown) and is followed around closely by the male. The male continues to nudge the female in the abdomen, and they move quickly to the surface, where spawning occurs. The frogfish may spawn several times over a few weeks. Click on thumbnail for larger photo. Video of Ellen Muller


Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Antennarius maculatus mating sequence
Copyright Mike Bartick

Video Copyright Mike Bartic

Video Copyright Anne DeLoach

Parenting ends with mating. The thousands of eggs are released encapsulated in a ribbon-like buoyant mass of mucus known as an epipelagic egg raft (gelatinous raft or mucous veil), that drifts for several days crossing large geographical distances and then sinks to the bottom after the embryos hatch. The planktonic stage lasts probably 1 to 2 months. Even small larvae of 5 to 10mm have a lure. Larvae are typically deep bodied (see Antennariidae p. 728ff PDF) and have a large head.

Juvenile frogfish look like smaller versions of their adult forms, but some show special defensive colors (see Baby Frogfishes).

Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - the smaller male (yellow) follows the expectant female (brown)
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - the smaller male (yellow) follows the expectant female (brown)
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) - the smaller male (yellow) follows the expectant female (brown)
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) a pair engaged in courtship

Antennarius striatus : details of the egg raft that is attached (????) at the rod of the male
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) the smaller male (redish) follows the expectant female (yellow)
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) the smaller male (redish) follows the expectant female (yellow)
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) the smaller male (redish) follows the expectant female (yellow)
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) small male close to larger female
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) the smaller male (redish) follows the expectant female (yellow)
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) small male close to larger female
Female swollen with eggs
Female swollen with eggs
A. striatus
Video with the male following the female frogfish
Female (large) and male (smaller)
Female (large) and male (smaller)
A. striatus
Copyright Silvia Kopp
Female (large) and male (smaller)
Female (large) and male (smaller)
A. striatus
Copyright Silvia Kopp
Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson), probably 4 black males to the right and one yellow female to the left
Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson), probably 4 black males to the right and one yellow female to the left
Copyright Bruce Shafer
Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson), probably 4 black males to the right and one yellow female to the left
Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson), probably 4 black males on the bottom and one yellow female on the top of the sponge
Copyright Bruce Shafer
 
Longlure frogfish (Antennarius multiocellatus) - small orange male (below to the right) is following large engorged female
Longlure frogfish (Antennarius multiocellatus) - small orange male (below to the right) is following large engorged female (Ellen Muller)
Longlure frogfish (Antennarius multiocellatus) - small orange male (below to the right) is following large engorged female
Longlure frogfish (Antennarius multiocellatus) - eggs and sperms are released - spawning happened at night (Ellen Muller)
Longlure frogfish (Antennarius multiocellatus) - details of the eggs
Longlure frogfish (Antennarius multiocellatus) - details of the eggs (Ellen Muller)
Eggs of Antennarius striatus: Close up of the egg raft
Eggs of Antennarius striatus: Close up of the egg raft
(photo Robert Sunderland)
 
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) - left large female, right smaller male
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) - left large female, right smaller male
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) female swollen with eggs
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) female swollen with eggs
Antennarius maculatus (engorged) is followed by a Antennarius pictus frogfish. Perhaps it is waiting for the release of the eggs, so it can eat them
Antennarius maculatus (engorged) is followed by a Antennarius pictus frogfish. Perhaps it is waiting for the release of the eggs, so it can eat them

Brood care

A few frogfish species (mostly living in Australia) show special parental care for their eggs. For example Lophiocharon trisignatus or Lophiocharon lithinostomus have fewer but larger eggs than other frogfish species. The female attaches a cluster of eggs with a threadlike structure to the surface of his body (photo) and carries them around until they hatch.

One of the mating pair of Phyllophryne scortea (see photo) and Echinophryne crassipina (see photo) stays close to guard their eggs. Would-be predators lured into the range by the embryos are known to be eaten by the parent frogfish!

Histiophryne cryptacanthus and H. bougainvilli hide the cluster of eggs in a pocket formed by the pectoral fin and the tail which is bent around (see photo).

Several courting males of Rhycherus filamentosus gather around the gravid female. Females lay about 5000 eggs in a large mass. The egg mass consists of numerous single-egg strings attached to a gel disc of about 30mm in diameter. The disc is laid first, the long strings of eggs, each on a long sticky double filament. As the male releases sperm, the female fans the eggs with the caudal fin and posterior sides, trying to spread them out into the back of the cave. During this process the male is expelled. Sticky threads entangle themselves with the surrounding growth on rocks (photos). The female then covers the eggs completely with her side and guards them. The young hatch after about 30 days and settle in crevices at the bottom (personal observation of Rudie H. Kuiter).

These frogfish species have relatively few but large eggs and the hatchlings are also relatively large and well developed. The result of this reproduction mode is, that these species have a narrow geographic distribution compared to other frogfish species.

Tasseled Frogfish - <em>Rhycherus filamentosus</em> - Quasten Anglerfisch
The eggs of the Tasseled Frogfish (Rhycherus filamentosus)
Copyright Guy Carter
Tasseled Frogfish - <em>Rhycherus filamentosus</em> - Quasten Anglerfisch
Tasseled Frogfish (Rhycherus filamentosus) with eggs
Copyright Guy Carter
Lophiocharon trisignatus - thumbnail picture / Kleinbild
Some frogfishes stay close to guard their eggs
Echinophryne crassipina
Details of the eggs
Details of the eggs
Lophiocharon lithinostomus
Copyright Jason Isley
Details of the eggs
Details of the embryos inside eggs
Lophiocharon lithinostomus
Copyright Jason Isley
Details of the eggs
Details of the eggs
Lophiocharon lithinostomus
Copyright Jason Isley
Lophiocharon trisignatus - thumbnail picture / Kleinbild
Details of the eggs
Lophiocharon trisignatus
Copyright Mary Jane Adams
Lophiocharon trisignatus - thumbnail picture / Kleinbild
The female of this frogfish (Lophiocharon trisignatus) looks after the eggs which are attached to his side with threads
Copyright Mary Jane Adams
Lophiocharon lithinostomus (Marble-Mouthed Frogfish - Marmor-Maul Anglerfisch)
Marble-mouth frogfish with eggs attached to left side - Lophiocharon lithinostomus -
Copyright Graham Abbott

The eggs of Tetrabrachium ocellatum (Four-armed frogfish or Humpback anglerfish) are wrapped around the dorsal fins which are specially hooked. Since a lot of fish like to eat eggs, these eggs might enhance considerably the overall luring effect of a frogfish.

Probably it is very difficult for frogfishes to find a partner in the deep sea. That is why the deep-sea angler (Families Ceratiidae, Caulophrynidae, Photocorynidae, Linophrynidae and Melanocetidae) shows a very strange sexual dimorphism. The male specimen is very small and attaches itself to the body of the female. The teeth and the jaw recede and the blood circulating of the two animals become one. The male frogfish spends the rest of his life attached to the female, like a parasite.

Baby Frogfishes

Click here for videos of baby frogfishes

Very tiny Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 4mm. Notice the transparent fins!
Very tiny Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 4mm. Notice the transparent fins!
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) about 7mm juvenile mimicking a distasteful flatworm
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) about 7mm juvenile mimicking a distasteful flatworm
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 6mm
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 6mm
probably a Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 1cm
probably a Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 1cm
Warty Frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) about 7mm
Warty Frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) about 7mm
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 1cm - my finger for comparison
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 1cm - my finger for comparison
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 6mm
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 6mm
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 4cm
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 4cm
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 3cm
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 3cm
Baby Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) about 4cm identified by the lure visible
Baby Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) about 4cm identified by the lure visible
Baby Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) luring
Baby Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) luring
Baby Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) luring
Baby Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) about 1cm
Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) about 6cm
Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) about 6cm
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) about 8mm
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) about 8mm
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) about 8mm
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) about 1.5cm

The juvenile clown frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) and the juvenile giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) are said to mimic a distasteful flatworm, complete with undulating dorsal fins to simulate the swimming worm. I think there are also examples of distasteful nudibranchs that look similar. Other frogfish species (Antennarius hispidus, Antennarius striatus) are just specially well camouflaged and look like algae covered rocks or like a slug.

Frogfishes are not poisonous but sometimes inflate their body by swallowing water so they can't be swallowed due to its increased girth.

Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus)
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus)
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus)
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus)
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus)
nudibranch
nudibranch - Chromodoris fidelis
nudibranch
nudibranch - Chromodoris preciosa
nudibranch
nudibranch - Hypselodoris iacula
flatworm
flatworm - Pseudoceros lindae
flatworm
flatworm - Thysanozoon nigropapillosus
nudibranch
nudibranch - Armina sp
flatworm
flatworm - Pseudobiceros cf kryptos
sea slug
sea slug - Dolabella auricularia
sea slug
sea slug - Notarchus indicus

Luring behavior in small frogfishes

I have observed, that the juvenile clown frogfish is luring by moving its second dorsal spine instead of its rod and lure. Other juvenile frogfishes seem to lure more frequently than the adult frogfishes. I think this is because they are too small to be mistaken by their prey for a sponge or a algae covered stone, so they have to be more active in luring. Their lure is also larger in comparison with their body size and if you have a magnifying glass or a macro camera you can see it quite well.

Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) moving the second dorsal spine
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) moving the second dorsal spine
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) moving the second dorsal spine
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about about 6mm - look at relativly large lure
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 3cm - look at lure
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus) about 4cm - look at lure
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) with its lure in front
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) with its lure in front
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) with its lure in front
Hispid Frogfish (Antennarius hispidus) with its lure in front
Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) about 5cm - look at lure
Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) about 5cm - look at lure

Especially the larger frogfish species change the way they hunt while growing. Young frogfishes hide a lot (like the smaller frogfish species). When they are grown up large frogfishes (Antennarius commerson, Antennarius multiocellatus) stay at the same place for a long time on exposed areas in the coral reef , so you will find them there during several dives.

Growing up

The photos below show the Warty Frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) in different sizes (pictures taken over 3 weeks )

Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 4mm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 5mm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 5mm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 7mm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 7mm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 7mm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 10mm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 15mm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
About 20mm

The following pictures were taken over 7 weeks at a dive site in Ankermis Bay, Maumere, Flores, Indonesia. Photos Copyright Heinz Weigel.


Baby warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) still very small

Small baby warty frogfish to the left (Antennarius maculatus)

Small baby warty frogfish to the right (Antennarius maculatus)

Baby warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus)

Baby warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus)

Baby warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) grown after 7 weeks

I identified all frogfishes (anglerfishes) to my best knowledge. Frogfishes are specially difficult to identify (see tips for identification) so mistakes are possible of course! Please write to me, if you have any questions. Latin names according to the newest scientific findings, ITIS Standard Report and Fishbase.


. Copyright Teresa Zubi