AntennariusTheodore W. Pietsch
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As presently understood, Antennarius is an assemblage of 24 species that fall conveniently into six species-groups. Like most other members of the family Antennariidae, fishes of the genus Antennarius spend the greater part of their lives squatting on the bottom in shallow water. These fishes are found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters. Despite their sedentary nature, nearly all are voracious carnivores that sit quietly waiting for smaller fishes to pass by, at which time they enticingly wriggle their bait to attract the potential prey to their cavernous mouths. Their ovaries are tightly rolled like a double scroll, and eggs are released embedded in a single, large, buoyant gelatinous mass. Besides their value in the aquarium trade, they are of no significant economic interest.
Whereas monophyly for each of the six species-groups can be supported by one or more synapomorphies, Pietsch and Grobecker (1987) were unable to find any convincing synapomorphic features to establish monophyly for the genus. Thus, Antennarius is defined by a combination of what appear to be primitive character states.
Antennarius is unique among antennariids in having the following combination of character states: skin covered with close-set, bifurcate dermal spinules, the length of spines of each spinule not more than twice the distance between tips of spines; illicium naked, without dermal spinules (except at extreme base, or confined to a narrow row of spinules along anterior margin, as in some species of A. ocellatus and A. nummifer groups); esca distinct; pectoral lobe broadly attached to side of body; caudal peduncle present or absent; all rays of caudal fin bifurcate; mesopterygoid present; pharyngobranchial I present; epural present; pseudobranch present; swimbladder present; dorsal rays 11–14; anal rays 6–10; pectoral rays 8–14.
Escal morphology highly variable; illicium, when laid back onto head, usually fitting into a narrow, naked groove situated on either left or right side of second dorsal spine, the tip of illicium (esca) usually (but not in members of the A. pictus Group) coming to lie within a shallow depression (sometimes devoid of dermal spinules) between second and third dorsal spines, the esca capable of being covered and protected by second dorsal spine when spine is fully depressed (esca of members of the A. pictus Group perhaps protected in similar way by third dorsal spine); illicial length highly variable, ranging from considerably less than length of second dorsal spine to slightly more than twice its length, 5.0–33.8% SL; anterior end of pterygiophore of illicium terminating considerably posterior to, or extending anteriorly considerably beyond, symphysis of upper jaw; illicium and second dorsal spine relatively closely spaced on pterygiophore, the distance between bases of spines less than 5% SL; second dorsal spine straight to strongly curved posteriorly, free or connected to head by membrane, length 6.8–20.6% SL; third dorsal spine curved posteriorly, tapering slightly toward distal end, the full length connected to head by membrane, length 15.3–31.7% SL; eye not distinctly surrounded by separate clusters of dermal spinules, diameter 2.6–11.4% SL; usually distal 2/3 of maxilla naked and tucked beneath folds of skin, only extreme proximal end directly covered with spinulose skin (only distal tip, approximately 20–25% of length of maxilla, naked and tucked beneath folds of skin in members of the A. ocellatus Group); cutaneous appendages scattered over head, body, and fins, their development highly variable); wart-like patches of clustered dermal spinules absent; caudal peduncle usually present (but absent in some members of the A. nummifer Group); epibranchial I toothless (a few tiny remnants of tooth-plates present in some specimens); ceratobranchial I toothless; vertebrae 19 or 20, caudal centra 14 or 15; dorsal 11–14, all simple to all bifurcate; anal rays 6–10, all bifurcate; pectoral rays 8–14, all simple or all bifurcate; posteriormost ray of pelvic fin simple or bifurcate.
Color in preservation highly variable.
The interrelationships of the six species-groups of Antennarius remain unknown and the species-groups are arranged in the key and the above cladogram solely on the basis of increasing relative specialization. Although each can be defined on the basis of one or more synapomorphies, no group of two or more species-groups possesses any known synapomorphy that does not also occur within other taxa of the genus.
This key, like the key to antennariid genera on the family-level page, works by progressively eliminating the most derived taxon, and for that reason should always be entered from the beginning. All features listed for each species-group must correspond to the specimen being keyed; if not, proceed to the next set of characters. The figures accompanying the key are diagrammatic; dermal spinules and cutaneous appendages (with minor exceptions) are not shown.
Pietsch, T. W., and D. B. Grobecker. 1987. Frogfishes of the World: Systematics, Zoogeography, and Behavioral Ecology. Stanford University Press, Stanford, xxii + 420 pp.
Theodore W. Pietsch
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Theodore W. Pietsch at and Christopher P. Kenaley at
Page copyright © 2005 Theodore W. Pietsch
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- First online 01 November 2005
Citing this page:
Pietsch, Theodore W. 2005. Antennarius. Version 01 November 2005 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Antennarius/52009/2005.11.01 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/