The Great Barrier Reef Library

A comprehensive guide to The Great Barrier Reef

Lophiiformes – Frogfish and Anglerfish

By on May 2, 2018


Lophiiformes, or more commonly, The Anglerfish, includes the popular Frogfish family. They inhabit the oceans worldwide, from shallow tropical seas, down to the abyssal depths. Their main distinguishing feature is that the first dorsal spine has lost it’s connection to the second. This has allowed it to migrate forwards, creating a fishing rod-like structure. Like a rod, a lure (Esca),  is supported by a line (Illicium) and this attracts prey. The lure has different forms and is vigorously moved to around to draw in food. Some lures are simple bulbs, or club-like, but others (particularly in the deep sea) are bio-luminescent. Some even resemble shrimps, or small fish!

Anglerfish are the perfect ambush predator. They use their lure to attract prey, before opening their mouths wide and swallowing it whole. This is a “gape and suck” feeding technique. They have an elongated support between the skull and lower jaw, which allows them to extend their buccal cavity. This increases the negative pressure and enables them to suck in large prey.

Lophiiformes have small, tube-like gill openings and their skull and first vertebrates fuse together. The base of the pectoral fins have become elongated, giving the appearance of jointed arms. Some species “walk” along the seabed, using these fins.

Whilst most Lophiiformes are deep water species, the Frogfish is often a favourite among scuba divers. This is owing to their unusual, yet colourful appearance, which is a nice reward for finding one hidden among the corals.

There are approximately 18 families and 322 species living worldwide. The Great Barrier Reef is home to only one of these families.

Family – A lower level of taxonomic classification, grouping together species that show many similarities

Antennariidae – Frogfish