Creature Feature: This is the Whitespotted Toadfish (Sanopus astrifer) which is endemic to Belize.
Often found peering out from under rocks, they feed on small fish, crustaceans and worms. They can grow in size up to 10 inches and open their mouth to expand to the width of their bodies allowing them to quickly engulf large prey.
Toadfish can make a loud grunting noise by contracting sonic muscles surrounding the swim bladder for communication. Both male and female produce broadband grunts but it is believed that only the males produce the long multi-note advertisement termed a “boatwhistle” to attract females to their nests. The boatwhistle helps in species recognition and act as a behavioral barrier to hybridization. Whitespotted call parameters are specific in duration and frequency but their call has sufficient variations to permit individual recognition and may indicate male quality for mate selection.
This species is listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable and considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
A special thanks to Traci Bash for finding this beautiful creature and to Dan Bash for immortalizing it.