A warm welcome for the next members of the ambush predators: They got the look. The cackatoo and white face waspfish are the living proof that punk’s not dead, just in hiding, waiting for the right moment to make a move. Having difficulties getting out of bed during the day, in combination with  their rather strange names, they might often be overlooked or misunderstood. Some mistake the cackatoo waspfish for leaf scorpionfish, especially when still young, while one wouldn’t expect such a round face as the white face is showing off within the group of waspfish.

Punk’s not dead!

In a way, punk is timeless. However, waspfish look somewhat rougher and wilder than leafies and definitely not as elegant (Leaf scorpionfish: Elegant and timeless). Needless to say, punks don’t care about fashion and grow into their look to keep it until the end of their life. Unlike other member of the family Scorpaenidae or other ambush predators, they are not trying to fit in or change their appearance to match their surroundings. They are happy with their camouflage and stick to it no matter what. Clearly their antisocial lifestyle helps them to stay hidden to sit and wait for their prey – or the next revolution.

It’s just having trouble getting out of bed.

Later in life the cockatoo waspfish (Ablabys taenianotus) quite often struggles to keep its dorsal fin up high, but otherwise it is just doing fine. Its odd second-grade relative, the white face waspfish (Richardsonichthys leucogaster), is even less known, but once you found this rather round waspfish in the dark he turns out to be very much alive and kicking. Looking at the classification at the bottom reveals that they are in the same order, but not the same family – sometimes common names can be misleading. You can find either of these punks in the Indian ocean and western pacific, sometimes called differently.

The secret life of the white face waspfish

Dinosaur, Godzilla or whatever else this white face reminds you of, in any case, they have that look in their eyes. Being more robust than a cackatoo or leafy, he is ready for the circle pit at any time. The general public doesn’t know much about this loner (wikipedia). Richardsonichthys leucogaster only grows up to 10 cm and has no close relatives as it is the only known member of its genus (see classification below). As a creature of the dark it’s best met during dusk and night dives in silt, sand or rubble. In short: 13 dorsal spines, 8 dorsal soft rays, 3 anal spines, 6 anal soft rays with large rounded head and deeply incised dorsal fin – venomous.

The cackatoo waspfish: Keeping it up

The cackatoo waspfish (Ablabys taenianotus) , the tall and skinny second cousin of the white face, can grow up to 15 cm and its body is compressed laterally. All its pride and central feature is its impressive dorsal fin, starting from the top of the head running all the way down along the back, looking like a crest of a cackatoo. Their colour ranges from white to dark brown. They are found in pairs as well as solitary and do look very similar to the spiny waspfish. The only visible difference is the number of dorsal rays (17 cackatoo vs. 15 spiny). Same as the white face waspfish it is nocturnal, but it stays on top of the ground during the day. Instead of burying itself, it seeks shelter. Found on sand, mud and rubble, it sways from side to side pretending to be rotten a leaf and moves with the water very much the same way an inert object does. This opportunistic predator feeds on small shrimp and other tiny crustaceans that happen to pass by. Punk has gotten a little bit lazy over the years, but watch out, same as with the white face, venom can be injected via the spines of the dorsal fin.

Scientific classifications

Waspfish for us the punks among the ambush predators and scientifically speaking:

Cackatoo waspfish, also known as Cockatoo Fish, Leaf Fish
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniforms
Family: Scorpaenidae
Genus: Ablabys
Species: A. taenianotus

White face waspfish, also known as whitebelly roguefish, rouge fish, torres strait soldier fish, white-bellied roguefish, whitebellied rougefish
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniforms
Family: Tetrarogidae
Genus: Richardsonichthys
Species: R. leucogaster

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