The Red-lipped Batfish
A walking fish from the Galapagos!
This fish would make Darwin proud. In fact, the red-lipped batfish is named after him (Ogcocephalus darwini). This unusual fish has a lot of adaptations that make it look and act very un-fish-like. First, its pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins are modified in such a way that it can rest on the sea floor on them. In some cases, it can move on its pectoral and pelvic fins as if it was walking! The second major adaptation is the modified dorsal fin that resembles the lures of the closely related angler fishes.
Here is a short video we made profiling the red-lipped batfish and it’s amazing ability to walk around and capture prey on the sea floor.
Where is the red-lipped batfish found?
The red-lipped batfish is most commonly found around the deep waters of the Galapagos Islands. Similar batfish, such as the rosy-lipped batfish are found around Cocos Island. The habitat range for this batfish is deep waters. Divers may encounter this fish at depths greater than 100 feet, but they are not common. While Carl L. Hubbs (see source below) noted that a few specimens were found in nets in California, but these sightings are highly unusual and may very well be a different, but related, species of batfish.
What does the red-lipped batfish eat?
Like many deep sea fish, red-lipped batfish are voracious carnivores. They use the modified dorsal spine as a lure (called an illicium) to attract prey. It is protected by an elongated snout. In general, they eat mainly small fish, mollusks, and crustaceans such as shrimps and crabs.
How big do they get?
The maximum length of the red-lipped batfish is about 40 cm long.
- Ogcocephalus darwini, a New Batfish Endemic at the Galápagos Islands, by Carl L. Hubbs © 1958 American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.