Creature Feature: The Spiny Devilfish

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As you are no doubt aware, there are many wondrous beings inhabiting the azure tropical waters of our planet. Images of our reefs’ prettiest – graceful rays, sharks, and the ever-photogenic banner, clown, bat and lionfish are often splashed across magazines and web pages, luring divers to our paradisic waters.

However, not all of our residents are blessed with the elegance, grace or a ‘cute factor’ to guarantee a mention in the press. It is with this in mind that I choose to present to you one of the most disturbingly grotesque, honest-to-god nightmare inducing beasts in our seas – that’s right, this is an appreciation of the downright UGLY!

Looking like a cross between a cartoon villain, a pile of twigs, Freddy Kruger, and your mother-in-law, this less-than-handsome critter has many faces, and also many names…

I give you the Spiny Devilfish! Bearded Ghoul! Demon Stinger! OK, those are the scariest ones – also commonly known around these parts as the Indian Ocean Walkman. Part of the venomous genus Inimicus, closely related to true stonefishes, the highly camouflaged Devilfish is covered in venomous spines, capable of delivering an immensely painful sting to a careless diver.

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The Spiny Devilfish spends most of its time laying motionless in sand or coral rubble, and due to its extremely sedentary habits has a wealth of parasites and algae infesting its skin. This however, is no problem for our spiny beast – he has the ability to completely shed the outer layer of compromised skin, and start afresh! They also employ a strange method of traversing the substrate. Rather than swimming freely on the reef, the Devilfish employs a much creepier (surprise,surprise) tactic. When disturbed, it will crawl away on the lower rays of its pectoral fins – little ‘legs’ if you will. Feeding nocturnally on fish and invertebrates, this master of camouflage waits until its unsuspecting prey gets too close and then BAM! – swallows them whole. The impressive size of the mouth allows the swallowing of prey over half its own size! The Spiny Devilfish are solitary creatures, and are found in pairs only during periods of courting and mating.

To be fair, the Devilfish does have very occasional flashes of… well, beauty maybe stretching a bit, but when disturbed by a potential predator or diver, can flash out its brightly coloured pectoral and caudal fins, sending a ‘leave me alone!‘ message loud and clear! So, next time you are scouring Malapascua’s muck in search of the bizarre, keep an eye out for our grumpy looking Devilfish, and be ready to appreciate it in all its villainous, hideous glory!

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