Sunday, 30 May 2021


Red Lipped Batfish, Ogcocephalus darwini
This sexy monkey with her luscious red pucker is a Red Lipped Batfish, Ogcocephalus darwini.

Our world's oceans have some of the most amazing, beautiful, ugly and interesting creatures on the planet. Red Lipped Batfish are no exception. They can be found along the sandy ocean floor and reefs around the Galapagos Islands and off the shores of Peru.

Their most distinguishing feature is revealed in their name and one look at this photo gives it away — they have very distinctive bright red lips. They also have a rather fetching illicium, the dangling projection you see here. It's a lure to attract prey to those luscious lips so she can enjoy a tasty snack. Above the illicium is an esca, an unusual feature that emits a bright light. Between the light and the lure, small fish and curious invertebrates — shrimp, molluscs, crab — deep in the Southeast Pacific investigate the light and get swallowed up by those lips.

Most of their flattened flounder-like bodies are light brown and a greyish in colour with white colouring on the underside. They are roughly the size of a dinner plate. On the top side of the batfish, there is usually a dark brown stripe starting at the head and going down the back to the tail.

Their face has a definite red sheen. Comically, with the red face and bored expressions, it looks like they're perpetually unimpressed and slightly embarrassed.

Once you get past those lips, the next thing that stands out with these interesting beauties is how they move. They're not terribly good swimmers but do walk rather well on their highly adapted fins. They march or waddle across the seafloor in search of more interesting sights to practise the art of deep-sea fishing.

Batfish are descendants of lophiiform fishes. In 2011, a new genus and species of batfish, Tarkus squirei, was described from Eocene (Ypresian) limestone deposits in the celebrated locality of Monte Bolca, Italy. Tarkus squirei was a tropical batfish that inhabited the inner-shelf palaeobiotopes of the central-western Tethys Sea.  Tarkus gen. nov. shows a certain degree of phenetic affinity with the extant shallow-water batfish genera Halieutaea and —more particularly — Halieutichthys. The specimens of this taxon are the first articulated skeletal remains of the Ogcocephalidae ever recorded as fossils, also representing the oldest members of the family known to date.

Reference: CARNEVALE, G., & PIETSCH, T. (2011). Batfishes from the Eocene of Monte Bolca. Geological Magazine, 148(3), 461-472. doi:10.1017/S0016756810000907