Thursday, 13 October 2011

Red-lipped batfish

Image of a red-lipped batfish
Red-lipped batfish
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Lophiiformes
Family: Ogcocephalidae
Genus: Ogcocephalus
Species: Ogcocephalus Darwini
Conservation Status: Least concern (not threatened)
Common Name: Red-lipped batfish

The red-lipped batfish is a weird looking fish of the family Ogcocephalidae that is best known for its bright red, lipstick-like lips and for its unique ability to "walk" on the ocean floor using its modified fin.

Where do red lipped batfish live?
They can be found exclusively on the sandy bottoms around the Galapagos Islands. It is a bottom dwelling species, found at depths of 30 meters (100 feet.) or greater. The species inhabits sand and rubble substrate, with the deepest recorded sighting being at 120 m (400 ft).

The species reaches a maximum length of up to 25cm (10 inches). The head is depressed and elevated above the disk with a pointed, horn-like snout that has a few hairs. The snout projects well forward between the eyes.

Color varies from a creamy-beige to emerald green and they also have two long stripes along their back.

Video showing a Red-lipped batfish (jump to 0:20)

The red lipped batfish has several peculiar morphological traits:
  • Its pectoral, anal and pelvic fins are modified in such a manner that the Red-lipped batfish can actually "sit" on the sea bottom.
  • The modified pectoral and pelvic fins can also be used for "walking" in the sea bottom. They are horrible swimmers, so they prefer walking to swimming! They swim very clumsily and only for small distances. Another example of a walking fish is the spotted hand fish
  • An enlongated, horn-like snout that attracts prey (similar to Anglerfishes)
  • And of course their bright red, lipstick-like lips!

All the above, surely make O. Darwini one of the weirdest-looking fish someone is likely encounter.

When the batfish reaches adulthood, its dorsal fin becomes a single spine-like projection that lures unsuspecting prey.

The bright red lips are believed to enhance species recognition during spawning. Some researchers speculate that they may also by used by males to attract the opposite sex. These two are just theories and certainly more research is needed to verify them.

Image showing a red lipped batfish resting on the sea bottom
Red lipped batfish resting on the sea bottom
using its modified fins

What do they eat?
They are voracious (eating large amounts) and carnivorous animals, mainly feeding on:
  • Small fish
  • Shrimps
  • Mollusks
  • Crabs

A red lipped batfish lurking on the ocean floor
Red lips not visible due to insufficient light

Is the red lipped batfish endangered?
Currently, there are no known major threats for the species, as its deep water habitat protects it from oceanographic environmental changes and climate change events. Populations appear to be healthy and stable and the species is listed as of "Least Concern" by the IUCN.

Furthermore, the species habitat falls entirely within the Galapagos Islands Marine Protected Area (WDPA 2006).

Interesting and Weird Facts Sum-Up
- Looks like it put a lot of lipstick. The role of the bright red lips still remains unknown
- Body more suitable for walking on the seabed instead of swimming
- The red-lipped batfish is often confused with the closely related rosy-lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus porrectus). They both look and behave very similarly, however the rosy-lipped batfish is exclusively found near the Cocos Islands off the coast of Costa Rica.
- The name "batfish" is derived from their bat-like appearance and is used to describe all the species in the Ogcocephalidae family.
- The species' scientific name (O. Darwini) pays homage to Charles Darwin

Video of a red lipped batfish that clearly shows its horn-like rostrum.
Red lips not visible due to poor light

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References & Further Reading
- Hubbs, C. (1958). Ogcocephalus darwini, a New Batfish Endemic at the Galapagos Islands Copeia, 1958 (3) DOI: 10.2307/1440581
- Bradbury, M.G. 1980 A revision of the fish genus Ogcocephalus with descriptions of new species from the western Atlantic Ocean (Ogcocephalidae: Lophiiformes). Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 42(7):229-285


  1. I'm doing a Bio Brief on this fish and this website nicely sums up all of it. This batfish is incredible and if anyone gets to see it in real life they are extremely lucky!

  2. Do you know more about this fish like: weight, reproduction, lifestyle, enemy, age...?

  3. well the article pretty much sums all the info you can find by reliable sources of the internet. Perhaps visit a library;

  4. I agree with you, catherine luu; the weight, reproduction, lifestyle, enemy, and ages of the red lipped batfish should be written. Anonymous (above me), the article does NOT sum all the info you can find by reliable sources of the internet.