It’s one wild ocean out there when it comes to fishes and their flashy fins, humorous habits and serious camouflage capabilities. Take even the most unsuspecting fish and we bet you’ll find something fun and unexpected about it. Discover these five fin-credible fishes showcasing some of the most interesting diversity in our ocean waters.
Camouflage level: expert. This fish might look like it’s ready for a fancy party to us, but to other small fish, it looks like just another piece of seaweed or ocean debris. And that’s exactly what makes it an effective predator. The weedy scorpionfish hunts by waiting motionless, or even swaying in the water to blend in. When an unsuspecting prey fish swims too close, the weedy scorpionfish uses suction to swallow the fish whole. While waiting to capture prey, these fish can remain in the same spot for weeks or months. Talk about dedication!
“Attractive” might not be the first word that comes to mind when you see the red-lipped batfish. They might seem a little unusual—for example, they tend to use modified fins as “pseudo legs” to walk along the bottom rather than swim. But, these fish have lots of tools to attract the things they need in life. Their flashy red lips are their most striking feature and are thought to be a way for males to attract mates. As a type of anglerfish, batfish have a lure below their horn, which is likely for attracting small fish and crustacean prey. And if their lure weren’t enough, scientists think that red-lipped batfish might secrete a perfume into the water that draws prey to them.
Named for its long snout-like nose, a hogfish likes to dig in the sand around the reefs to find buried crustaceans in the same way a hog might root around on land for food. But perhaps the coolest fact about hogfish is that they can rapidly change color from white to spotted to a full brownish red color in order to better blend in with their surroundings or to stand out to a potential mate. Scientists recently discovered that these fish can even sense light with their skin to make these color changes.
While the term “jaws” might make you think of sharks, yellow-headed jawfish deserve their own shout-out for their multipurpose mandibles. Jawfish use their large mouths to dig burrows in the sand at the edges of coral reefs. These burrows offer protection from predators, and jawfish will even reinforce the entrances with rocks and shells they carry using their jaws. Once the burrow is built, they can use their jaws for snapping up small food items in the waters around them. The jaws also come in handy for raising young—the males care for the eggs by storing and aerating them in their mouths until hatching time. You might even say their jaws are like the Swiss army knife of the fish world!
This fish found in Australian waters really packs a punch! To start with, their flesh is poisonous. And when stressed by sudden sounds or lights, long-horn cowfish release a toxin into the water that can be lethal to other sea life. Their long horns are thought make it harder for predators to swallow them. Not only do they have horns on their head like a bull, they also have a horn beneath their tail. Their horns are hollow and can even grow back if they are lost!
It can be easy to overlook our fishy friends, but we shouldn’t. They have an important role to play in ocean ecosystems and many fish species help support fisheries. At Ocean Conservancy, our appreciation of fish, the fishermen that sustainably catch them and the scientists that study them runs deep. Learn more about our work on fish.