Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Batfish in Tayrona Park, Colombia

The batfishes (family Ogcocephalidae) are a poorly known group of fishes belonging to the order Lophiiformes (anglerfishes).   They are distributed worldwide in tropical to subtropical seas (except Mediterranean Sea), in deep waters;  but few species can be found in shallow waters. 


We can see batfishes from the genera Ogcocephalus in Tayrona Park,  especially the shortnose batfish. They are found generally on continental shelves and slopes on flat, relatively open bottom habitats of rubble, sand, and mud or algae areas.  

Its more common to spot them during the night, but we have been very lucky to see them at daylight during the past months and be able to take nice pictures to those funny faces with redlips.



Batfishes are small , (40 cm maximum). The head and body of these fishes form a flattened, broad disc which may be circular or triangular in shape when viewed from above.  Their pectoral and pelvic fins have become modified to act more like legs for walking on the seafloor rather than swimming.  This feature is reflected in the common name “walking batfishes” that is often applied to this group of fishes.  Their scales are modified into spiny tubercles and/or bucklers which make them bumpy and rough in appearance and to the touch.  These fishes also have a rostrum which can range from short and shelf-like to long and pointed depending on the genus, species, and/or age of the fish.  



Batfishes primarily feed on small benthic invertebrates like gastropods (snails), crustaceans, and polychaete worms or small fish. You can watch this video about a batfish using the esca to attract preys.



So next time you go diving in Taganga, check the bottom  maybe you can see this walking fish. Enjoy your dives.

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