Sunday 1 February 2015


Image: Sander van der Wel
Lachnolaimus maximus
Look at that lovely fish! The subtle, pearly pattern on his cheek...

You need to get really close to see it clearly but...

Image: Mark Catesby
You may not want to get too close!

These are the gruesome jaws of the Hogfish. It's a kind of wrasse who lives in tropical, Atlantic waters around places like Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Image: Brian Gratwicke
Male Hogfish
As wrasses go, the Hogfish is an unusual size and completely the wrong shape. Most of the 600 or so species of wrasse are well under 30 cm (a foot) long and quite slender in shape. Hogfish, on the other hand, are some 90 cm (3 ft) long and have a round, compressed body shape.

Image: Kevin Bryant
Females and juveniles have significantly more palatable mouths
Hogfish are variable in colour. Youngsters and females might be pale grey or dark grey...

Image: Kevin Bryant
Or they might be be brown or orange.

Image: Kevin Bryant
They might be stripy...

Image: Kevin Bryant
Or blotchy.

All Hogfish spend their first three years of life as a female. After that, and when they're about 35 cm (14 in) long, they can turn into males. Now they'll be the colour of moonlight with a dark patch extending from their mouth to their snout and all the way down to their tail.

They get to keep the cool dorsal fin, though, with those three extra-long spines that trail off behind the rest of the fin.

Oh! But speaking of that mouth...

Image: Kevin Bryant
Check out those canines!
Hogfish have really weird mouths. It's elongated and just... not the kind of thing you expect to see on a fish. The females are quite dainty but the males have an actual muzzle like a dog or indeed, a pig.

This mouth is very big and opens very wide and it's protrusible so it can be extended to even longer lengths AND each jaw is armed with two canine teeth at their tips!

Horrors upon horrors! Upon horrors.

Image: Albert Kok
Snuffle, snuffle
With this freakish mouth the Hogfish can set about finding some grub. They do so by putting their snout in the trough, rooting around the seabed in search of molluscs and crabs.

The long mouth is perfect for delving into the sandy floor, while those canines crack open the shells of prey.

Video: divertnt01

With a belly full of molluscs, the male has the strength he needs to guard his harem of females. He will only mate with this one group of ladies. He still has to court them one by one (people always forget the hard work involved in maintaining a good harem) and the pair will swim to the surface and release their eggs and sperm.

The eggs hatch in a day, the larvae drift about for several weeks and finally the juveniles swim to the sea floor to cram crustaceans into their increasingly freakish jaws.


TexWisGirl said...

wow, they're a funky lot!

Porakiya said...

I second that statement

Crunchy said...

Their mouths are terrifying, but distance yourself from the nightmarish, Giger-esque scenarios and they like a big goofy smile. Just look at that illustration! He looks like he's saying, "Hey guys, gah-hyuk!"

BK said...

That si nothing compared to the Slingjaw Wrasse.

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: They certainly are!

@Porakiya Draekojin: Thirded!

@Crunchy: Ha! It's hard to be terrified of anything that says "gah-hyuk"

@Bk Jeong: Ah! Now there's a point!

Jeff said...

You need to do the Slingjaw Wrasse. it's even worse.

Joseph JG said...

Yes! I shall!