Habitat: South America: Amazon River basin in Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, and Venezuela
Status: Not Evaluated
You know that saying “Make like a tree and LEAF ME ALONE”? Well, either this fish has a penchant for terrible cliche phrases or it had no choice but to employ a similar camouflage technique. Mother Nature would tell us it’s the latter but I’m not entirely convinced. However, I don’t think anyone would need convincing when it comes to the effectiveness of the South American Leaf Fish’s (Monocirrhus polyacanthus) ability to almost BECOME a dead leaf.
Not only does its dark brown, mottled coloration perfectly resemble a leaf on its last legs (or stems, as it may be) but it’s even developed a protrusion at the end of its nose that mimics a stem. It ends up looking like Pinocchio caught on a bad day, but hey, whatever works. To complete the vegetative effect (no pun intended), it angles itself downward in the water much like a floating, dead leaf would. No predator worth its salt would go after a dead leaf. Dead leafs are for those lame vegetarians, after all.
Even though it looks more like a veggie stick than a fish stick, it still has a hunting technique admired by carnivores everywhere: its ability to ambush its prey. When an unsuspecting creature wanders in front of the harmless dead leaf (or so it thinks) the fish makes a quick meal by – quite literally – sucking its victim in and swallowing it whole. It basically transforms itself into a hoover vacuum by extending its jaws and drawing in water, along with its flailing victim. South American Leaf fish can consume their own body weight daily.
Apparently these fish can be kept in aquariums (but for reasons I’m sure you can figure out) they need to be the only resident in the tank. Unless you’re looking to recreate a scene from a slasher movie. With fish. If that’s the case, then I think you’ve found yourself a camera ready creature! Now all you need is a good psychiatrist.