My first encounter with a hairy frogfish immediately reminded me of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. That experience not only burned into my memory a long-lasting impression but created the indelible question: What’s with the hair?
Many critters have the ability to morph colors and some can even alter their shape, but do some actually have the ability to sprout hair? The trait seems to spread itself across different species within a particular habitat (such as Lembeh Strait in Indonesia), with critters that range from frogfish, scorpionfish, pipefish, octopus, shrimp, and crabs.
No one knows why some creatures seem to sport hair, which grows on their skin. The striated or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) is one such animal. Frogfish engage in a behavior known as aggressive mimicry. Many frogfish can disguise themselves as stones, sponges, or sea squirts, and this capability protects them from predators; they also can mimic a meal — such as appearing to dangle a worm or shrimp as a fishing lure — to their prey.
The frogfish is not the only critter decked out in a hairy costume. Other creatures include the orangutan crab; hairy scorpionfish, algae shrimp, and ghost pipefish, among others.
The critters in this niche-category are varied for sure, but they all seem to share one common thread — habitat. Close proximity to estuaries, shallow bays, and runoffs all tend to support beds of algae and sea grass; diving in these types of places will yield many interesting finds.
Mike Bartick was born and raised in Southern California, not far from the ocean in Huntington Beach. After finding his first nudibranch on an Open Water checkout dive, he was immediately hooked on diving. Bartick, who splits his time between the Indo-Pacific and the Eastern Pacific as a freelance photographer, photojournalist and field guide, shoots with a Nikon D300 and D300s, Sea and Sea housings, and YS-D1 and YS 250 pro strobes. To see more of his work, visit saltwaterphoto.com.