by Brent Bomkamp

Most fish are not known for their vocalizations, but one local marine denizen is among the noisiest fish on Earth. The Oyster Toadfish, common among the rocky reefs and oyster beds of West Harbor, is known for its buzzy, baritone call, reminiscent of a cellphone vibrating on a hard surface. This call is so loud and resonant that it can even be heard from the inside of a nearby boat. Males use this signal as a means of attracting females to their rocky nests, which are constructed by moving seafloor detritus in their strong jaws. Once a female is attracted to the site, she will lay her eggs within the nest, and the male will defend them until they hatch.
The Oyster Toadfish’s other defining quality is its remarkable ability to camouflage. Various protrusions and growths on its skin mimic the algae and plant life that blossom throughout rocky shorelines and combine with the mottled brown-and-black coloration to aid the fish in its cryptic hunting style. Hiding itself under a rock, the Oyster Toadfish will wait for crustaceans to unwittingly approach before using its powerful tail to propel itself to the prey and crush it in its jaws. Make no mistake, their cartoonish appearance masks an aggressive hunter.

If you want to get more acquainted with an Oyster Toadfish, stop by the WaterFront Center’s downstairs aquarium where a member of this species has lived for the past four years. If you are lucky, maybe you’ll even get a chance to hear its call!