Psychedelic Frogfish

Domain: Eukarya
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Lorphiiformes
Family: Antennariidae
Genus: Histiophryne
Species: H. psychedelica

©David Hall /

You have my lovely husband to thank for today’s topic! I had never read anything on the H. psychedelica until my then-fiancé spotted this fish in a book we had purchased from our local aquarium. A side from the picture of this creature, the book contained no information on the fish beyond its name and location. Since I couldn’t find any additional information in my personal library, I had to rely on the (gasp!) Internet to educate me.

Psychedelic frogfish are a very rare fish first discovered in the early 1990s. The two that were caught died shortly afterward and were misidentified as cryptic anglers that were in “poor condition,” their stripes disappeared when preserved for later studies.

It wasn’t until psychedelic frogfish were photographed in the wild in 2008 that researchers started to believe that they had discovered a new species of frogfish. After DNA testing—which is the way we confirm new species today—the fish were determined to be the first in a new genus, Histiophryne.

Psychedelic frogfish are tiny fish that grow to be no more than 10 cm (about 4 in) long, and they have frills that grow from their faces like a lion’s mane. These fish get their name from their unique coloring of blue-green, white, and yellowish-orange stripes that form a fingerprint-like pattern. In fact, the patterns are unique to each individual, which allows researchers to recognize specific fish. The other fascinating thing about their coloring is that it looks very much like a brain coral’s grooves and ridges, giving the fish an excellent disguise from predators and prey.

For those who know about frogfish and anglerfish, you’re probably wondering why the psychedelic frogfish needs to hide from prey—that behavior is weird for the family. Yes, it is weird, but unlike its cousins, the psychedelic frogfish doesn’t possess a noticeable lure, or illicium, growing from its forehead that could be used to attract prey. Therefore, it needs a clever disguise to hide in the coral rubble and snag its grub. What better way to do that then by looking like a coral?

The other thing we know about them is that they are “egg-brooders”, in other words, they hug their eggs to their bodies to protect them from predators until they hatch.

Not a lot is known about H.psychedelica because they are such a rare fish that’s limited to one area, as of this writing. If you think these guys are cool, maybe you can be the first to make some huge discovery about them that gets your name in a bunch of research papers and textbooks. I think these guys are pretty goofy looking, but in a cute way, and they are kind of hypnotizing—I could watch videos of them for hours!

Sources and cool links:

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