WTF? (WHAT’S THAT FISH?) 3: BATFISH
That’s ‘Batfish’ (or strictly, Batfishes, for there are some 60 species worldwide), as in one of the weirdest, most alien underwater creatures you may ever encounter. As opposed to ‘Bait Fish’, those little silvery specimens that are so attractive to predator fish higher up the food chain – the ones fishermen might be interested in… And the Batfish has no connection at all with Bruce Wayne of Wayne Manor, Gotham City nor with his sidekick Robin. I mention this bizarre-looking and -acting creature because two have recently been seen and photographed in Abaco waters and although I’d heard of the batfish and even knew vaguely what one looked like, I was quite unprepared for the real thing. Ellen Sokol is a Captain for Kiskeedee Sailing Charters which during the summer is based in the Abacos and which amongst other things gives youngsters the opportunity to snorkel and to learn about undersea life. Ellen says: “I was snorkelling when I saw this thing on the bottom. At first, I thought it was a dead bird! It wasn’t moving at all even when I touched it with my flipper. Later when I read about this fish I learned that it sits motionless and uses the long nose to attract prey. I suppose that is exactly what it was doing when I rudely interrupted it! I later researched, and found it to be a spotted batfish”. Because they had no underwater camera on board, Ellen’s son gently scooped it up in a net so they could take a quick photo of the fish before returning it. Quick thinking! The other recent sighting was posted with a photo on FB within the last 3 weeks. It must have been by someone with whom I am ‘Friends’ or who I follow, and at the time I thought it remarkable and dragged out the image. Usually I note the source but this time I stupidly failed to do so. I’ve scrolled back through FB but I have several hundred friends, many posting much of the time, so the search was fruitless. I’m therefore posting the excellent pic with a promise to take it down if there is an objection, and in the hope that whoever made the sighting will say ‘hi’ and I can credit him, her or them appropriately… For what it’s worth, I think this one may be a short nosed batfish. STOP PRESS Ellen Sokol has now reminded me of the source of this image – the excellent CRUISE ABACO. So apologies to them for lack of attribution in the first place…
10 OGCOCEPHALIDAE (BATFISH) FACTS TO TREASURE
- There are some 60 species of batfishes worldwide
- They live in warm and temperate seas, including the waters of the Bahamas
- An adult batfish is 12″ – 14″ in length
- Their bodies are generally lumpy, with some hard spines
- Some have a long, upturned snout. Others have bright red ‘lipstick lips’
- They are rubbish swimmers, and often ‘walk’ on their limb-like pectoral and pelvic fins
- Most species are deep sea denizens but some (short nose, spotted) inhabit shallower water
- The fleshy snout above the mouth lures prey close enough to its jaws to eat
- The batfish is becoming increasingly rare worldwide, and is considered to be endangered
- Only the word ‘Logcock’ (pileated woodpecker) contains the initial 4 letters of Ogcocephalidae
CAN YOU SHOW ME SOME MORE EXAMPLES OF THIS INTRIGUING FISH?
By all means. Here are some images of other batfish species – red-lipped, long nosed, short nosed – each peculiar in its own way. You’ll see their preferred, most unfishlike method for getting around.
Q. PLEASE MAY I SEE A VIDEO OF A BATFISH? A. YES. TWO.
“Heather Ashcraft found this very rare short-nosed bat fish on Eleuthera, Bahamas Sept 17 2013. It is a very strange (almost alien) looking combination of bat, frog, bird, and fish. The pelvic fins are used for walking on the ocean floor… Above the bat face is a horn (or beak)…”
“Taken at Coco Cay, Bahamas, April 29, 2014. At first we had no Idea what we were looking at… one of the weirdest things we had ever seen. Apparently they are rare. Even some of the locals had no idea what we were describing”