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Undersea mystery: Why is this prey fish "kissing" its predator?

By Leonard Ho - Posted Mar 11, 2013 08:00 AM
Our friends Ned and Anna DeLoach at need your help to solve a mystery. Why is this razorfish lip-locked to the under-jaw of a predatory lizardfish? Anna tells us the standoff lasted for at least five minutes and would have probably continued if the divers hadn't accidentally spooked the odd pair. What do you think this is all about?
Undersea mystery: Why is this prey fish "kissing" its predator?

The razorfish (bottom) is surprisingly latched on to a lizardfish that can swallow it whole! What's going on?

Anna Deloach ( recounts for us the mysterious observation:

Razorfish Bites

Lembeh Strait, Indonesia ~ Well the table is turned. I have seen prey in the grips of toothy lizardfishes before, but never this. What is going on here? From a distance I could see Ned watching what I thought was a lizardfish (quite a predator on the reef) trying to eat a razorfish. Then I realized the razorfish was firmly clamped onto the lizardfish – quite a reversal from the expected. Ned had a better angle and was able to get a shot that clearly shows it.


I contacted Dr. Gerry Allen for help with the razorfish identification – it is Cymolutes torquatus (and the lizardfish is Synodus dermatogenys) – and to ask if he had ever seen this behavior. He had not. I managed to get a tiny bit of video (below and on our BlennyWatcher Channel) and Ned shares this and other photos from our October 2012 trip to Raja Ampat and Lembeh over on our travel blog,

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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