The Red Lipped Batfish of the Galapagos

When you think of batfish, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For us it’s the groups of cute, plate sized, fish that join us on safety stops. Though it nominally shares a name, the Red Lipped Batfish is a very different beast.

The first thing you notice about the red lipped batfish is that is does not look like a batfish. Or indeed a fish at all. The second thing you notice is that they look like they have gone over the top slightly with the red lipstick. It’s slightly reminiscent of Robert Smith in his 80’s heyday. What’s interesting is that nobody really knows why this is the case. Some scientists believe is for the male to attract females, or to identify species within spawning events, but we’re not sure.

A Host Of Interesting Features

Unlike many fish, which have one or two interesting features, this one has lots. If the red lip stick is not good enough for you then, how about the torch on it’s head? Yes, its head lights up. Or at least part of it does. The red lipped batfish has a face only a mother can love. The least attractive part of an already quirky face is the illicium that protrudes from the front of its head. Gloriously, the tip of this illicium lights up in order to attract prey. In dark and deeper waters, small fish and shrimps are drawn to their doom by the light.

Red lipped batfish on the move
Is there a stranger looking fish in the ocean? The red lipped batfish goes for a stroll on the ocean floor.

As well as the headlamp, as with many other anglerfish, once they reach maturity the dorsal fin becomes a single spine-like projection. This apparently acts as a lure to help lure prey. What is not clear is how a lure on the back half of your body can help you catch fish. It’s nice to know that scientists don’t know everything.

You want another quirk? How about the fact that they can’t really swim? They are generally classified as ‘poor swimmers’, but it’s hard not to feel that scientists are just being kind. These little chaps have enough going on to then be classified as non-swimmers.

Where can you see red lipped batfish?

Rather than gracefully swimming around, evolution has decided that awkwardly wandering on the sand is the way forward. In fairness, this allows them to reach crabs, mollusk, and shrimp they eat more easily.

The Galapagos is the most common place to see the RLB out for a stroll. Book your trip to the Galapagos right now and witness through your own mask this incredible creature! And if this little fella doesn’t float your boat then maybe the hundreds of hammerheads, turtles, whale sharks, mantas, marine iguanas, penguins and much more will do that.


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