The Frogfish Family – Antennariidae
The fish of the Frogfish or Antennariidae Family are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as Ranisapos. Globally there are a forty-six family members that have been placed in fourteen genera of which eleven species are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific. They are a circumglobal, tropical, and subtropical family and are found in all tropical and temperate seas.
The Frogfish are relatively small fish; the largest is 50 cm (20 inches) in total length. They have short, globose, slightly compressed bodies with a large oblique ventral mouth featuring numerous small villiform teeth. Their eyes are on the sides of their head. They have small gill openings found behind and below their pectoral fin base. Their first dorsal spine (the “illicium”) is large and free, forming a movable “fishing rod” that is modified as an enticement lure (the “esca”) which is wiggled vigorously to attract fish prey that are then swallowed whole. They also stalk fish and crustaceans. They have the ability to engulf prey longer than themselves as their abdomen can expand significantly. Their second and third dorsal spines are also free; they are well-developed and covered with skin. They have large pectoral fins that are elongated and “leg-like” with an “elbow” joint.
Frogfish are shallow water masters of camouflage; they change colors to match their background, which includes brightly colored encrusted sponges. Members of the Histrio Genus are an exception, as they are found clinging to floating Sargassum weeds. They are sedentary but voracious carnivores that sit quietly waiting for small fish to pass by. Most Frogfish have two color phases: the “light phase” has a tan to yellow, brown or rust color background overlaid with black, brown or bright yellow streaks, bars, or spots on the head, body and fins, while the “dark phase” has a dark brown to black background with streaks, bars or spots showing through as deeper black and the tips of the rays or paired rays are often white. Reproduction occurs via pelagic eggs whereby a single female can release up to 300,000 eggs which form a buoyant “raft” that remains afloat for several days until hatching.
Frogfish are used in the aquarium trade; otherwise they are of very minor economic interest. They are caught as a by-catch in bottom trawls and utilized in fishmeal. On a very limited basis, they are consumed by local populations in the Caribbean and Indo-West Pacific.
Eleven Frogfish reside in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific. Three are currently included in this website, one from the Atlantic and two from the Pacific.