June 17, 2010
The coolest fishes?
When people find out that I am a Marine Science Illustrator who paints mostly fishes for a living, they often ask, "What is your favorite fish to paint?" My answer is always the same: "The weirder the better." Meaning, the more the fish doesn't look like a fish, the more fun it is to render. For example: Dories, Goosefish, Snipefish, Pipehorse...
There are a lot of very non-fishy fishes in the oceans. Among the most interesting are the bottom-dwellers. Of those, the frogfishes and batfishes are highly evolved. Not only are many incredibly variable within a species, they have turned specialization into an art form. The first dorsal-fin ray is modified into a lure consisting of a thin illicium and a fleshy esca. The esca of frogfishes is specific to each species. Pelvic and pectoral fins are used not for swimming, but for walking and clinging. The skin is cryptic, often mimicking sponges or seaweeds (in frogfishes), or the bottom (in batfishes). The gill opening is located behind the pectoral fins, and is slit-like. Frogfishes have large, upturned mouths, while the mouths of batfishes are inferior and fleshy.
The frogfishes are well documented as they usually occur above 300 m. Batfishes can survive in very deep, cold waters to about 1,000 m. A recent article on CNN.com eludes to a possible new species in the Gulf of Mexico. Here is a good website devoted to batfishes, which might possibly be 'the coolest fish'!