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Frogfish Might Look Like Sponges, But They’re Super Fast

Frogfish are really good at blending in with their environment - particularly with the sponges that they live on. But they’re also crazy fast hunters

(David Eveleth)

Popquiz: Can you spot the fish in this picture? That’s one of 47 species of the weird, sponge-like frogfish. Here are all 47 species. Frogfish are really good at blending in with their environment, particularly with the sponges that they live on. Here’s on their amazing ability:

The frogfish is a master of camouflage. His body is often covered with spots, stripes, warts, skin flaps and filaments. The frogfish mimics substrate and structures like algae covered rocks or rubble, plants like Sargassum weed or algae, and animals like tunicates, corals and sponges. For example the striped frogfish (Antennarius striatus) looks with the help of skin flaps and appendages just like the algae it is hiding in. Other frogfishes look like sponges, down to the openings they immitate with spots on their skin. A newly discovered frogfish species (Histiophryne psychedelica) has stripes are all over the body that look like the patterns found on stony corals or bryozoans.

This is what they look like when they walk. It’s weird:

But although they’re super awkward walkers, frogfish have some advantages. As Why Evolution Is True puts it, “natural selection is pretty damn good at molding animals (and some plants) to hide their true nature by evolving to resemble either another organism or their environment. The resemblance can be astonishingly precise.” And, camouflaged in their environment, frogfish are really good predators. Here’s one taking down a fish:

Want to see that in slow motion? Sure. Here’s a frogfish eating at 1/100th normal speed.

And here are some more pictures of frogfish hiding in sponges:

(David Eveleth)
(David Eveleth)

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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