Known as a weird-looking fish, the red-lipped batfish thrives in the marine environment of the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Endemic to the islands, this is a less known-about aquatic species. Here are some interesting facts about this batfish.
The Voyage of the Beagle
This book by Charles Darwin mentions several endemic species of the Galápagos Islands, which were studied by him during the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle between 1831 and 1836.
The name batfish is given to other fish types too, including the California batfish, some animals from the Ephippidae family, etc. The Ogcocephalidae is another batfish family of well-adapted oceanic bottom dwellers. These are sometimes also called seabats or anglerfish.
Although found in deep waters, a few species are found in comparatively shallow waters. The habitat of tropical and sub-tropical water bodies is common among all the Ogcocephalidae family members worldwide. One such member with a distinct identity is the red-lipped batfish.
The Red-lipped Batfish
Species: Ogcocephalus darwini
Species Authority: Carl Leavitt Hubbs, 1958
The common names for this species include ‘Batfish’, ‘Galápagos batfish’ in English, and ‘Pez murciélago’, ‘Pez murciélago labio rojo’ in Spanish. According to the IUCN Red List, it falls under the least concern category. This species is believed to have no threat, or does not face any declining populations, because of the broad range of depth and deep water habitat.
The red-lipped batfish dwells mainly in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. They are found in the vicinity of the Galápagos Islands, which lies on the equator and off the west coast of the South American continent. They are rarely found besides these islands, occasionally within the regions below Peru, one exception being recorded in Ecuador too.
The average depth at which this strange-looking aquatic animal is spotted is 30 meters. This species is mostly seen in the sand and rubble substrate, thus, primarily on the deep ocean floor. The red-lipped batfish, although frequenting shallow waters in some regions, also rise to the surface in deep waters. It is not surprising to find them at the edges of reefs that are around 120 meters deep.
Appearance and Size
Batfish are said to possess certain features resembling a bat, which is why the name. With a light-brown to gray colored body, the batfish can only be identified from a crowd due to the characteristic red lips. They are bright-red, almost fluorescent in color. This feature is understood by marine biologists to be a mechanism to enhance species recognition during spawning (breeding).
The squamation, or scales, are shagreen-like and comparatively smooth in texture. Commonly, this fish has around nineteen to twenty vertebrae. The longest red-lipped batfish found so far has been around 40 cm long. ‘Illicium’ is what is seen on the top of the head; a protruding extension.
Adaptations of Galápagos Batfish
Although a deep-water fish, it does not know how to swim well. So, a red-lipped batfish straight away walks on the ocean floor. It is identified with this peculiarity, as it possesses highly altered pectoral fins that aid walking. On maturity, the dorsal fin turns into a spine-like projection, extending from the head. This illicium is known to be used by the fish to attract prey; also a similarity with other anglerfish. Esca present at the end of the illicium sends out bright light, which in deep waters easily attracts smaller fish, serving as food for the batfish.
This batfish is a piscivore/ivertivore, which means it eats other small fish and invertebrates. Its diet constitutes small crustaceans, including shrimp, mollusks, crabs, etc.
Lifespan and Reproduction
The lifespan of a red-lipped batfish is considered to be approximately up to twelve years. These fish reproduce sexually. Their eggs include pelagic and pelagic larva types.
Since this fish resides at the bottom of the ocean, it has no vulnerabilities from even any climatic changes, or phenomena like the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation).