Sunday 9 August 2015

Cockatoo Waspfish

Image: Daniel Kwok
Ablabys taenianotus
No, it's not the Flamingo Dogfrog or the Hummingbird Antelopewhale, those are obviously completely made up.

It's the Cockatoo Waspfish! A seemingly random collection of animals that happens to be one that exists.

Image: Bernard DUPONT
First thing's first: Cockatoo Waspfish are fish! They reach up to 15 cm (6 in) long and live on the bottom of warm, Western Pacific waters, from Japan down to Australia.

Second thing second: they're Waspfish! This all makes perfect sense so far.

Image: prilfish
Waspfish are the members of a family called Tetrarogidae. They get their name from the venomous spines in their fins which can inflict painful stings to anything that tries to interfere with them.

That's also why Scorpionfish are called Scorpionfish and, as it turns out, Waspfish are members of the Scorpionfish order. It's painful stings galore! Yaaaaaay!

Finally, the Cockatoo, bit. This comes from the huge dorsal fin that runs down their entire body and is particularly impressive right on their forehead. A bit like those funky, or I guess cocky, parrot things.

Does all this sound at all familiar? Yup, it's just like our old friend the Australian Prowfish! And with their smaller size and larger eyes, the Cockatoo Waspfish looks like the Prowfish's cute, younger sibling.

Image: prilfish
Prowfish are members of the Scorpionfish order, too, but they're not Waspfish. That means they're not quite as closely related as they first appear. Instead, these similarities are down to a shared interest in leaves. Or, to be more precise, a shared interest in going unnoticed by looking just like a leaf.

Cockatoo Waspfish are very autumnal in colour, running the full gamut of leaf-corpse from red to yellow to brown. Now they can rest all day on the sea floor and go unnoticed by predators. At night they munch on any small creatures that wander by.


As you may imagine, Cockatoo Waspfish can't swim particularly well and they don't much need to. They prefer to just sway gently from side to side, just like a dead leaf would. Some day they'll have to swim somewhere, but they tend to do so slowly, sort of bouncing along with the help of their enormous pectoral fins. They might even swim side-on, letting the current do the work for them.

It's the way a dead leaf would do it, isn't it?

Image: Daniel Kwok
While Cockatoo Waspfish are often found living alone, the adorable thing is, they're also found in pairs.

Now they can be seen relaxing together, dining together and swimming weirdly together. Two inseparable dead leaves!

So if you spot two dead leaves out on an afternoon walk across the sea floor, take a closer look! But not too close or they'll sting you...

On second thought, if sleeping dogs lie, maybe you should just let dead leaves do what they do. Which is to go on walks together.


TexWisGirl said...

definitely resembles a cockatoo!

Esther said...

They look so innocent and cute, it's like they're daring me to pick them up and experience a world of pain!

Lear's Fool said...

Awww, and the couple has a little pet shrimp they're swimming weirdly with!

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: If only there was a flying fish that had that kind of headgear!

@Esther: Ha! Sneaky buggers!

@Lear's Fool: Isn't it sweet that they pick him up when he gets tired!