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Utile dulci strategy ?


Subject: The stonefish has elevated camouflage to a form of art: matching colouration, adjusted skin texture, algae coverage and the ability to lie immobile for hours make him almost indistinguishable from the rocks on his side. It takes a while before you realize that the stone you are looking at is actually a fish. Is this Stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa) lying in ambush in a cleaning station that is run by White-banded Cleaner Shrimps (Lysmata amboinensis), is he just enjoying a cleaning or is he combining the useful with the pleasant (a cleaning before or after dinner or as they say in Latin “utile dulci”)? If he effectively lies in ambush then this a brilliant hunting strategy.

Technique: Patience is key. I took me almost an entire hour to have a mere 30 seconds of broadcastable quality footage of this extraordinary behavior. But just as with everything in life; good things will come to those who are patient. I ran unfortunately low on air and had to leave the water so I have no idea if the “utile dulci” theory is real stonefish behaviour.

All images Copyright 2020 Olivier Van den Broeck and Greet Meulepas for Beyond scuba. All rights reserved.