In this minute of visual meditation, we invite you to glide with a school of round batfish (Platax orbicularis) over a beautiful reef in Wakatobi. To avoid confusion with the other batfish of the family Ogcocephalidae, members of the group known as anglerfish, these round batfish are often referred to as spadefish or platax.
Round Batfish (Platax orbicularis) schooling above the reef top in Wakatobi (Indonesia)
The body of Platax orbicularis is almost disc-shaped and very thin. Its tail, about 20% of the body length, is fan-shaped and is taller than it is long. Males can grow to up around 50 cm (20 inches) in length. This species has a wide range that extends from the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. They have been recorded off the coast of Florida as well, although this is thought to be the result of dumping of aquarium specimens.
The life of a round batfish
These fish can be found singly, in small groups, and occasionally in large schools around reefs and wrecks, at depths ranging from 5-30 meters. Small juveniles are yellowish to reddish-brown and resemble leaves drifting amongst flotsam at the surface or moving along the bottom in the current. Platax orbicularis normally feeds on algae, invertebrates and small fishes, but has been known to spice their diet up at times with the occasional anemone.
Sing along with the Round Batfish (Platax orbicularis)
What is lesser-known, is that this species is a singer! Though their calls are not quite as melodic, as say that of birds, they are certainly diverse. Like with birds, their choruses occur mostly at sunrise or sunset, and sometimes both. Why they perform these serenades is still up for debate, but their songs seem to have a distinct staccato beat to them. Although the acoustic abilities of certain fish species still need further research, the benefits of it are pretty clear. Singing offers considerable advantages as it means the fish can communicate at night when predators can’t see them, and due to the density of the water, it allows them to communicate over long distances and bring animals together for spawning events. All species of fish can make sounds, but only some can sing. This evolutionary talent occurs in the ‘swim bladder’, a large bubble of gas inside most fish that is used to control their buoyancy. Singing fish can control the muscles of their swim bladder, driving it to create sound. This makes Platax orbicularis an even more interesting creature than it already was.
Enjoy your swim with these beautiful shiny, silvery, musical fish.