The hairy frogfish are covered in dermal spinules resembling hair that provide them with the ability to change their color and pigment pattern in order to blend with their environment. Therefore, color and appearance varies greatly across the species.
Hairy frogfish have very healthy appetites and will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. Their diet consists primarily of crustaceans and fish, but they can extend their jaws wide enough to eat prey as large, and sometimes even larger, then themselves; including other frogfish.
These camouflaged predators often lie in wait for their prey. A first dorsal spine, called an illicium, dangles from their foreheads, much like a fishing pole. An esca hangs from the tip of the illicium like a lure, enticing unsuspecting prey to move closer until the hairy frogfish pounce and trap them in their giant mouths with one swift gulp.
However, hairy frogfish are not sedentary creatures. They hobble about on jointed pectoral and pelvic fins with the help of their anterior dorsal fin and anal tail, often employing jet propulsion to launch themselves from place to place. Hairy frogfish jet propulsion is generated by filling the mouth with water and then forcefully expelling that water through tube shaped gill openings behind their pectoral fins.
Hairy frogfish have been found in parts of the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They are not currently listed as threatened or endangered. However, they are suffering habitat loss at a more rapid rate as rising temperatures continue to cause an increase in coral bleaching.
We photographed this hairy frogfish during a dive in Anilao, Philippines. Read more in our post, Biodiversity from the Muck to the Reef: Scuba Diving Anilao, Philippines.