A Fish with Camouflaged Eyes

Crocodile Fish (Papilloculiceps longiceps), Red Sea
Crocodile Fish (Papilloculiceps longiceps), Red Sea
by B. N. Sullivan

Many animals in the sea have evolved colors and forms that allow them to blend in with their surroundings. Some animals use their camouflage to hide from predators — and some predators use camouflage to fool their prey.

The critter in the photo above is a Crocodile Fish (Papilloculiceps longiceps), a bottom-dwelling ambush predator from the Red Sea.  The mottled coloring of this fish matches the sandy areas were it likes to lie in wait for its prey (usually other fishes).  Its body shape, including its head, is quite flat. This "low-rise" profile also makes it less noticeable to fishy passers-by.

Sometimes an animal’s eyes are the one feature that will interrupt the camouflage effect and give it away, but these images illustrate how even a critter’s eyes can be somewhat camouflaged. Take a good look at the eyes of the Crocodile Fish and notice the lappets — the small irregular fleshy flaps that partially obscure the eyeballs — a part of its disguise.

Below is a macro image of the eye of a Crocodile Fish who was nice enough to stay very still even when I came in very, very close to take the photo!  The photo is of a different individual than the one in the image at the top of the page, but it is the same species.

Macro photo of eye lappets on a Crocodile Fish
Macro photo of eye lappets on a Crocodile Fish

Note: A portion of this article was published previously in Photosynthesis on ScienceBlogs.com.

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