Ambush predators rely on disguise and stillness to hunt other fishes. Most of the ambush-style piscivorous coral reef fishes are anything but sleek or swift swimmers. Rather, they use color patterns or background matching to make them virtually invisible as they wait motionless for unsuspecting victims to wander within striking range.
In these sly hunters, attacks are generally made at very close range, often less than a body length. Most have very large upturned mouths that enable them to inhale their luckless victims in a single swift gulp.
Common examples of ambush piscivores of coral reef ecosystems include the frogfishes (Antennariidae, pictured left), lizardfishes (Synodontidae), and scorpionfishes (Scorpaenidae).
Many of the groupers and seabasses (Serranidae) are masters of the ambush attack, waiting patiently in caves at the base of the reef.
Some groupers also hunt as stalking predators at times, using their color patterns and huge tail fins to allow a quick strike from close range.
Ambush predators are not confined to the reef proper; some types utilize other ecosystem habitat types. The best example of such “bushwackers” are the flatfishes such as flounders, which lie in wait under a thin layer of sand with only the eyes protruding.