The batfishes are a family of lophiiform fishes that includes 68 species distributed among 10 genera. These fishes are marine bottom-dwellers that feed on small invertebrates and fishes. The esca appears to exude a fluid that may function as a chemical lure; however, the chemical properties of this substance remain unknown. Although batfishes are taken regularly in commercial fishing operations, they are rarely eaten and do not support a fishery.
Small to medium-sized lophiiform fishes (to 25 cm), dorsolaterally compressed (except for species of Coelophrys). Head large, triangular or circular in outline, forming a disc. Esca within cavity just above mouth, in most species a smooth-skinned glandular structure that can be extended in front of the mouth a short distance; dorsal margin of cavity a protective rostrum formed of close-set tubercles. Eyes of moderate size, about 7 to 15% of standard length; skin surrounding the iris often covered with prickle-like scales, visible in dorsal view but directed anterodorsally. Mouth small, overhung by rostrum in some species; lips usually thickened; jaw teeth minute, arranged in rows on pads. Palatines and vomer with or without teeth. Gill openings small, round, located behind the pectoral fin attachments, directed dorsally. Branchiostegals 6. Dorsal fin small, only 4 to 7 short rays (sometimes absent), located on tail halfway between disc and caudal fin. Anal fin slender, lappet-like, only 3 or 4 rays. Pectoral fins attached to sides of disc, appearing leg-like. Pelvic fins attached to ventral surface of disc anterior to pectoral fins, with 1 spine and 5 soft rays. Lateral-line organs a series of free neuromasts appearing as fleshy knobs, most prominent on ventral margins of disc and lateral sides of tail. Scales highly modified to form conical tubercles, variable in size from minute prickles to large strong spiny structures. Short hair-like extension of skin (cirri) often present, especially around edges of disc and sides of tail.
Color variable, fresh specimens often pink to reddish; dark markings may be present on dorsal surface of disc in the form of reticula, rings, or blotches.
Evolution and Systematics
Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships
The hypothesized relationships of the Ogcocephalidae as presented by Endo and Shinohara (1999). Numbers on the cladogram represent transformation series as "character number (primitive-derived)." Character reversals are indicated by an asterisk. For character states, click here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.
The interrelationships of ogcocephalid genera were analyzed by Endo and Shinohara (1999) based on characters discussed by Bradbury (1967). Endo and Shinohara (1999) reported a sister relationship between Coelophrys and Halieutopsis supported by the following synapomorphies: normal frontal bones, spine-like illicial bone, and pectoral fins not forming an elbow. They also reported that Coelophrys and Halieutopsis form a larger clade with Dibranchus, Halicmetus, Malthopsis, Zalieutes, and Ogcocephalus supported by the following synapomorphies: an interrupted lateral line on tail and holobranchs present on second and third gill arches, absent on fourth gill arch. The genus Solocisquama Bradbury (1999) was not included in the Endo and Shinohara (1999) analysis because it had not yet been described.
- Lateral line on ventral surface of tail absent (0), present and uninterrupted (1), present and interrupted (2);
- large conical scales (“bucklers”) absent (0), present (1);
- papillary operculum of iris absent (0), present (1);
- teeth present on jaws and palatines present (0), absent on palatines (1), absent or reduced on jaws, palatine, and tongue (2);
- frontal bones normal (0); forming a groove (1), forming a tube (2);
- holobranchs present on second and third gill arches, hemibranchs present on fourth gill arch (0); holobranchs present on second and third gill arches; fourth gill arch without gill filaments (1);
- esca ovular (0), triangular (1), trilobed (2);
- shape of illicial bone unmodified (0), spine-like (1);
- pectoral fins without elbow (0), with elbow.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:156
Specimens with Barcodes:150
Species With Barcodes:28
The Ogcocephalidae are a family of bottom-dwelling, specially adapted fish. They are sometimes referred to as seabats, batfishes, or anglerfishes. They are found in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide. They are mostly found at depths between 200 and 3,000 m (660 and 9,840 ft), but have been recorded as deep as 4,000 m (13,000 ft). A few species live in much shallower coastal waters and exceptionally may enter river estuaries.
They are dorsoventrally compressed fishes similar in appearance to rays, with a large circular, triangular, or box-shaped (in Coelophrys) head and a small tail. The largest members of the family are about 50 cm (20 in) in standard length. The illicium (a modified dorsal fin ray on the front of the head supporting the esca, a bulbous lure) can be retracted into an illicial cavity above the mouth. The esca is not luminous as in most other groups of anglerfishes, but secretes a fluid thought to act as a chemical lure, attracting prey. Analysis of their stomach contents indicates that batfishes feed on fish, crustaceans, and polychaete worms.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). "Ogcocephalidae" in FishBase. January 2009 version.
- Bertelsen, F. & Pietsch, T.W. (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 139–140. ISBN 0-12-547665-5.
- Theodore W. Pietsch (2005). "Ogcocephalidae". Tree of Life web project. Retrieved 4 April 2006.
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