Shortnose Batfish, Ogcocephalus nasutus
The Shortnose Batfish, Ogcocephalus nasutus, whose common Spanish name is murciélago tapacaminos, is a species in the Batfish or Ogcocephalidae Family, known collectively as murciélagos in Mexico. Globally, there are sixty-four species in the family placed in ten genera of which ten are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and nine in the Pacific. For the genus Ogcocephalus six are found in Mexican waters, all in the Atlantic. All family members are bottom dwellers that are specially-adapted fish. Most are found in very deep, lightless, global tropical waters at depths between 650 and 3,300 feet.
The Shortnose Batfish have flattened bodies that are shaped as rounded triangular discs; they are wider at the front and taper at the tail. Their dorsal side varies in color from black to red-brown and can be uniform in color. Some fish have a network pattern on their head, shoulders, and tail base. The tip of their snout is dark. Their caudal fin is generally dark with a broad pale bar across its center and their pectoral fins have dark edges. Their depressed head has a pointed snout with a well-developed horn of variable length that normally points upwards, eyes on each side of the head, and a moderately-sized terminal mouth that opens at the front. Their anal and dorsal fins are small and found at the rear of the body; the pectoral and pelvic fins are limb-like with the pectoral fins being completely separated from the body. Their pectoral fins have 12 or 13 rays. The back of their body is covered with large bucklers and conical spines. They are completely covered with scales.
The Shortnose Batfish are a benthic species found in inshore coastal waters over sandy and muddy bottoms at depths up to 950 feet. They reach a maximum length of 38 cm (15 inches). They feed on fish, crustaceans, and polychaete worms and are known to release a fluid that acts as a chemical lure to attract prey. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Shortnose Batfish are found in all waters of the Atlantic.
The Shortnose Batfish can be confused with the Longnose Batfish, Ogcocephalus corniger (small stature; 10 or 11 pectoral rays), the Slantbrow Batfish, Ogcocephalus declivirostris (small stature; 10 or 11 pectoral rays), the Spotted Batfish, Ogcocephalus pantostictus (covered with small dark spots), and the Roughback Batfish, Ogcocephalus parvus (covered with dark spots).
The Shortnose Batfish are caught as a by-catch of deep water shrimp trawlers but are normally discarded. They are of limited interest to most.
Shortnose Batfish, Ogcocephalus nasutus. Fish collected off the beach along the along the northwest corner of the Gulf of Mexico, March 2010. A significant loss of coloration of the fish is noted. Length: 30 cm (12 inches). Photos courtesy of Clifton Northum.