Odd Frogfish of Lembeh
Since Lembeh Strait is considered "The Frogfish Capital of the World", anyone who dives here can expect to see plenty of the popular critter. Differentiating between the various species can be tricky though, especially the smaller ones. Juveniles can be quite different from the adult form of some types. Add to this the wide variety of colours and patterns within many frogfish species and confusion can reign supreme.
In this blog entry I am including some pictures of odd frogfish species along with my thoughts on what species they are. Feedback and input is welcome.
These first four pictures are of what I believe to be a single species. I had found them rarely and when I had they proved very difficult to photograph, being quite shy. They all had long delicate "toes", an almost-invisible illicium and esca, blotches of colour on the body, and usually some red markings on the mouth, like badly-applied lipstick. It didn't seem to clearly fit the existing description of any Antennarius I had found in any ID book. An odd frog indeed. But on further sightings, I think I've now narrowed it down.
When our friends John and Donna Todt were with us on their last visit, their presence jogged my memory in regards to these little froggies. I was with them on an eventful night dive at TK3 and down at ~14 meters we found three little frogfish in one group: a pregnant female and two suitors. One was of solid colour, but the other two, pictured here, showed more markings, being out in the open, more-or-less. On these three one can see the pale-edged spot at the base of the dorsal fin, which would identify them as A. mummifer, or spotfin frogfish. I hope that I'm right and the mystery has been solved. They often get confused with the next species I'll approach.
The above pictures are of one of the usual suspects, the freckled frogfish a.k.a. the scarlet frogfish, or in the language of the Catholic Church, Antennarius coccineus. We find them often, mostly by night. They can be quite shy and hard to photograph. You'll see that they have a short illicium ("fishing pole") with a small white pom-pom esca ("lure"). They can be a range of colours, but are most often seen showing dull, often grey, colouration. Telling them apart from the Antennarius mummifer, also known as the spotfin frogfish can be a challenge, but the spotfin should have a dark, pale-edged spot at the base of the dorsal fin. It should also have a longer illicium, tipped with a cluster of filaments, but in my experience, the esca on the A. mummifer is difficult to see clearly. The orange and black pair below were in less than two meters of water on our House Reef for a few months, directly off our Dive Centre steps!.
The right two pictures are of what we call an ocellated frogfish and to my knowledge it has yet to be officially described. They are always small; the largest specimen I ever encountered was at Jahir and measured an approximate whopping 1.5 inches! They are usually black, but we have seen a few in shades of brown, like one of the pair in the middle shot. Their giveaway is the orange-ringed spot on the dorsal fin. They sometimes have two of these spots, but most often only one, with the orange ranging from subtle to flaming. We see them every two months or so, which leads me to believe that they are not rare, just very good at hiding, as they are almost never spotted out in plain sight.
The picture above is another matter entirely and brings back vivid memories. It was taken at TK3 and escaped my immediate notice as at the same time there was an incredible amount of amazing critters in the area. But we recently received a picture from two of our "regulars" who know how to find and photograph critters very well: Angelika Woelke & Ingo Buss. Their fine shot was taken in the Philippines, of a lovely little frogfish they needed identified. I settled on Histiophtyne cryptacanthus / cryptic frogfish and replied that I had never seen one. But on ruminating about it, my memory took me back to this interesting froggie and I dug through my archives to unearth this happy snap. As it was within a few meters of three different octopi (mototi, mimic and wonderpus) out and about, along with a pair of thorny seahorses in sight, my focus was not concentrated, so I only snapped off two shots. But as it stands, if it is indeed a cryptic frogfish, it is probably the only one I've ever encountered. But since the head doesn't slope back smoothly, I feel that it's probably something else.
This brings me to the end of this blog entry. I pledge to build some momentum by adding my observations and photos more frequently, so please watch this space. Also feel free to look us up on our BSDR Facebook page and add your two cents' worth in regards whatever Fung posts there along with my blog posts.
Onwards and Upwards... Bruce