Anatomy of a frogfish: New book explores world of fishes with arms and legs

By Peter Kelley
This article originally appeared in UW News

Frogfish illustration
An illustration of the frogfish Antennarius pictus, published by George Shaw in 1794. From a new book by Ted Pietsch, UW professor of emeritus of aquatic and fishery sciences.

Any old fish can swim. But what fish can walk, scoot, clamber over rocks, change color or pattern and even fight? That would be the frogfish.

frogfish book cover
“Frogfishes: Biodiversity, Zoogeography, and Behavioral Ecology” was published in March by Johns Hopkins University Press. Johns Hopkins University Press

The latest book by Ted Pietsch, UW professor emeritus of aquatic and fishery sciences, explores the lives and habits of these unusual marine shorefishes. “Frogfishes: Biodiversity, Zoogeography, and Behavioral Ecology” was published in March by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pietsch, who is also curator emeritus of fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, has published over 200 articles and a dozen books on the biology and behavior of marine fishes. He wrote this book with Rachel J. Arnold, a faculty member at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham and its Salish Sea Research Center.

These walking fishes have stepped into the spotlight lately, with interest growing in recent decades. And though these predatory fishes “will almost certainly devour anything else that moves in a home aquarium,” Pietsch writes, “a cadre of frogfish aficionados around the world has grown within the dive community and among aquarists.” In fact, Pietsch said, there are three frogfish public groups on Facebook, with more than 6,000 members.

UW Notebook caught up with Pietsch for a conversation about his book and the unusual family of fishes it describes.

Read the full interview over at UW News.