Red-Lipped Batfish

Ogcocephalus darwini

Last updated: April 23, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Joe Dordo Brnobic/Shutterstock.com

Despite its weird looks, the red-lipped batfish is harmless to humans

Red-Lipped Batfish Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Lophiiformes
Family
Ogcocephalidae
Genus
Ogcocephalus
Scientific Name
Ogcocephalus darwini

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Red-Lipped Batfish Conservation Status

Red-Lipped Batfish Locations

Red-Lipped Batfish Locations

Red-Lipped Batfish Facts

Prey
Smaller fish, shrimp, mollusks, worms, crabs
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Despite its weird looks, the red-lipped batfish is harmless to humans
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
Climate change
Most Distinctive Feature
Its red lips
Other Name(s)
Galapagos batfish
Water Type
  • Salt
Optimum pH Level
8.0 to 8.5
Habitat
Reef, soft bottom of the ocean near the shore
Predators
None
Diet
Carnivore
Type
Fish
Common Name
Red-lipped batfish
Number Of Species
2

Red-Lipped Batfish Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Grey
  • Red
  • White
  • Light-Brown
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
Up to 12 years
Weight
Less than 2 pounds
Length
8 inches

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View all of the Red-Lipped Batfish images!



The bright red pouty lips of the Red-Lipped Batfish, are thought to attract mates, which is what bright red pouty lips do for humans.

Two of the challenges of life for a fish, or any other life form, are to find food and once in a while, find a mate. The fins of the red-lipped batfish, which is found only in the Galapagos Islands are not best adapted to swimming, so swimming after its food is difficult. What the fins do allow the fish to do is “walk” over the bottom of the reef where it lives. Moreover, the fish is a member of the anglerfish order and has a lure to bring prey to it if it can’t move fast enough.

Five Amazing Facts About the Red-lipped Batfish

Here are five amazing facts about the Red-lipped batfish fish:

  • The fish can swim but it prefers to “walk” along the ocean floor.
  • It’s only found around the Galapagos Islands, hence its other name of Galapagos batfish.
  • As the fish matures, its dorsal spine turns into a projection called an illicium that sticks out of the top of its head. At the end of the illicium is a structure called an esca, which gives off a bright light. This serves as a lure for prey.
  • The classification of the batfish belongs to is the Lophiiformes order. This order is the home of the deepsea anglerfish who also use bioluminescent esca to lure their prey.
  • Despite the Ogcocephalus classification, the red-lipped batfish is not really a batfish. True batfish belong to the Platax genus.

Red-lipped batfish Classification and Scientific name

The scientific name of the red-lipped batfish is Ogcocephalus darwini. It comes from the Greek words for “hook” which is ogkos and “head” which is kephalḗ, so it means a fish with a hooked head or a hook on its head. Darwini comes from the famed naturalist Charles Darwin. There are no subspecies.

Red-lipped batfish Appearance

The look of the red-lipped batfish makes it hard to mistake it for any other type of fish with the possible exception of the rosy-lipped batfish. These fish have disc-shaped, flattened bodies and pectoral, anal, and pelvic fins that behave like limbs. The mouth is small and found ventrally, and the head is adorned with an illicium and esca.

The batfish’s gills are simply tiny holes behind the fish’s pectoral fins. It has scales but they are modified to form structures called bucklers. They are especially noticeable on the back, which is brownish or grayish with a darker stripe from head to tail. The fish is about 8 inches long, has a weight of fewer than 2.2 pounds, and usually has about 19 or 20 vertebrae. Of course, its lips are a deep, vivid red as if it had put on too much lipstick.

The fins of the red-lipped Batfish is not adapted for swimming, so it "walks" along the sea-bed.
The fins of the red-lipped Batfish are not adapted for swimming, so it “walks” along the sea-bed.

Savva Danylchenko/Shutterstock.com

“Why do batfish have red lips?”

Scientists believe that the batfish’s florid red lips help it identify and attract members of the same species during the spawning season.

Red-lipped Batfish Distribution, Population, and Habitat

The red-lipped batfish is only found in the Galapagos Islands, but though this makes it rare it is not endangered. Its conservation status is least concern. It is most often found “walking” over the soft bottom near reefs or hiding under rocks at depths that are usually between 10 and 249 feet.

Red-lipped Batfish Predators and Prey

Ogcocephalus darwini does not appear to have any serious predators in its habitat, and it seems to have no fear of being seen out in the open because of it. It preys on a variety of marine animal life, including shrimp, crabs, smaller fish, and marine worms.

Red-lipped Batfish Reproduction and Lifespan

Not much is known about the reproduction of Ogcocephalus species. These fish release eggs and sperm into the water, where the eggs are fertilized. The larvae are then dispersed throughout the ocean. The fish can live about 12 years in the wild.

Red-lipped Batfish in Fishing and Cooking

Fishermen are not particularly interested in landing this odd little fish, and it’s not used much in cooking. It does seem to be somewhat at risk of being by-catch even as the area around the Galapagos Islands is protected from overfishing.

Red-lipped Batfish Population

Biologists don’t know the exact population of the red-lipped batfish, but they do know it is endemic to the Galapagos Islands.

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Red-Lipped Batfish FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a Red Lipped Batfish?

The red-lipped batfish is a strange-looking fish, with a length of about 8 inches and a weight usually less than 2 pounds. It lives only in the Galapagos Islands. It overcomes the challenges of not being a good swimmer by having fins that allow it to “walk” over the bottom of the coral reef. It also beats the challenges of being slower than some of its food by having a bright lure at the front of its head that brings prey within striking distance.

Where do Red Lipped Batfish live?

It lives in the waters off the Galapagos Islands, which are found off the coast of South America and belong to the country of Ecuador.

What do Red Lipped Batfish eat?

These fish eat smaller fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms.

Is the red-lipped batfish rare?

The red-lipped batfish is probably rare because it is found in such a small area, but it is not endangered.

What are two unusual things about the red-lipped batfish appearance?

The two really unusual things about the red-lipped batfish are its red lips and the weird shape of its body. Its fins and body have been modified to give it the appearance of a bat to some people, hence its name.

Is the red-lipped batfish an endangered species?

The red-lipped batfish is not an endangered species, though it runs the risk of being affected by climate change and the bleaching of the reefs where it lives.

Are red-lipped batfish poisonous?

Red-lipped batfish are not poisonous, even though they’re not very much eaten by humans or any other predators.

Sources
  1. Saltcorner, Available here: http://www.saltcorner.com/AquariumLibrary/browsespecies.php?CritterID=3722
  2. Fishbase, Available here: https://www.fishbase.se/summary/8199
  3. Two Oceans Aquarium, Available here: https://www.aquarium.co.za/blog/entry/everything-you-need-to-know-about-batfish-platax
  4. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-lipped_batfish
  5. Ocean Conservancy, Available here: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2019/12/16/red-lipped-batfish/
  6. Untamed Science, Available here: https://untamedscience.com/biodiversity/red-lipped-batfish/
  7. Seafish, Available here: https://www.seafishpool.com/batfish-red-lipped/
  8. Galapagos Conservation Trust, Available here: https://galapagosconservation.org.uk/wildlife/red-lipped-batfish/
  9. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Available here: https://biogeodb.stri.si.edu/sftep/en/thefishes/species/776

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