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What is a red-lipped batfish? ©

What is a red-lipped batfish?

Pucker up for this poor swimming, bottom dwelling, big mouthed, waddling fish.

The red-lipped batfish flaunts its outrageous scarlet pout with all the charisma of a 1980s goth frontman. No one knows exactly why the batfish sports its signature look, but it may help it to attract mates, or to recognise others of the same species at spawning (reproduction) sites.


The red-lipped batfish lives at depths of up to 75 metres in the waters surrounding the Galápagos Islands, where it is adapted to life as a bottom dweller, living and feeding on the seafloor. It is a poor swimmer, but modified fins act as makeshift legs, helping it to ‘walk’ along the sand. Well, it’s more of a froggy waddle, but when a little more speed is required, the batfish can push off with the ‘pelvic’ fins beneath its body and use its muscular tail to propel itself through the water.

The fish also sports a fleshy appendage on the top of its head called an illicium, which contains a chemical-emitting lure that’s thought to help it attract the small fish and invertebrates on which it feeds. This fish is enigmatic, it’s eccentric, and with no known predators, we should be able to enjoy its Instagram-worthy pout for some time to come.

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Helen Pilcher
Helen PilcherScience writer, presenter and performer.

Helen Pilcher is a tea-drinking, biscuit-nibbling science and comedy writer, with a PhD in cell biology.


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