The red-lipped batfish – a comical concoction
All dressed up and nowhere to go – perhaps this is why the red-lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) looks so unequivocally depressed. These fish may not be winning any Miss Ocean titles any time soon, but this has not deterred them from being a very successful species. Generally found near the Galapagos islands, they fill their days skulking around the ocean floor regretting trying the ‘permanent tint’ range in bright rouge. In some bizarre feat of nature these fish have developed distinctively bright red lips, turned downward to give a profoundly miserable expression. These characteristic lips are thought to aid them in recognising each other during breeding (if the pinocchio nose, walking fins and old lady moustache didn’t give it away).
Things don’t really improve for these guys during later life either, as their bespoke dorsal fin decides to plonk itself right between their eyes. Although this gives the impression of an oversized sniffer, this modified fin is actually used to draw in prey. In an attempt to copy their (debatably) uglier cousins the anglerfish, this fin conceals an ‘illicium’ underneath with a white ‘esca’ that flicks in and out. The simpletons of the sea are somehow mesmerized by this large flapping bogey, and swim directly into the batfish’s face.
Not built for the athletics track, the batfish even struggles to swim in an environment where it would probably come in handy. They have modified pectoral fins that they use as weird little legs to walk along the ocean floor. Unsurprisingly this is not the most efficient method of getting around town, so they have to use their disappointingly normal tail for propulsion. This tail is also thought to be used as a defense mechanism, although I don’t think their social calendar is overly full. These seemingly despondent fish tend to live quite solitary lives at depths of around 30m, where the light is generally quite poor. Don’t feel too bad for them though – there has been very little research done on these creatures and for all we know they may be 100% body confident (fingers crossed).
Like many other odd looking creatures, the name ‘batfish’ is a way of scientists saying ‘we don’t really know what it is so we are just going to cram two names together and hope for the best’. They may look like the outcome of some questionable merrymaking, but a bat was certainly not involved. In light of this car crash of peculiarity, I think it’s fair to say that evolution has had one too many. Go home evolution, you’re drunk.