Bothus lunatus is a species belonging to the family Bothidae, which in turn is part of the order Pleuronectiformes. Specimens of this species are found along the coasts of the western Atlantic Ocean (from Florida, Bermuda and the Bahamas to Brazil) and the eastern Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Guinea). It typically inhabits sandy flats adjacent to coral reefs and occasionally in meadows or near mangroves. Usually the waters in which we find specimens of this species are between 1 and 20 meters deep, which is the range in which they are more frequent, although it is possible to observe specimens up to 100 meters deep.
The body of Bothus lunatus, like that of all soles and related species, although it seems to be compressed dorso-ventrally, in reality the body is compressed laterally, with the right side of the body always oriented towards the seabed, and the left side upwards in this species. During the larval stage, specimens are initially pelagic and bilaterally symmetrical, that is to say with one eye on each side of the head. It is during the development of the larvae that they will undergo a metamorphosis process by which one of the eyes migrates from one side of the head to the other, so that both eyes end up on the same side of the head, which in the case of Bothus lunatus is the left.
The body is ovoid in shape, can reach a total length of 46 cm and the dorsal and anal fins surround almost the entire body. The dorsal fin has 92-99 soft rays, while the anal fin has 71-76 soft rays. The pectoral fins are long and the caudal fin has a shape that is generally rounded, although there are specimens with pointed caudal fins. It has two large eyes, which in adult specimens are located on the upper surface and are projected on the top of some bony protuberances. The lower eye, the one closer to the mouth, is positioned more forward than the upper eye, with a wide space between the two eyes. This interorbital space is even more accentuated in male specimens. Another feature that allows us to differentiate males from females is that males have a strong spine on the snout. The mouth of Bothus lunatus specimens is large and oblique, extending beyond the vertical formed by the anterior margin of the lower eye.
If the strange body morphology has not caught our attention, the livery of Bothus lunatus certainly will. The upper surface of the body is a shade between gray, brown and tan, with small circular blue spots. Also both the head and fins have these blue circular spots. They can adapt the color depending on the background in which they are found, which allows them to go completely unnoticed. Not only do they use their camouflage to go unnoticed, but they also partially bury themselves in the sediment.
Bothus lunatus is an ambush predator, which remains hidden on the seabed before darting out to catch any unwary prey that approaches. Its prey includes mostly small fish, and to a lesser extent crustaceans and cephalopods.
During courtship, the male and female approach each other with their pectoral fins in a vertical position. The male places his body under the female and the pair slowly rises from the bottom. The fish release eggs and sperm as they rise from the bottom substrate. This activity is followed by a rapid return to the safety of the bottom.Photos: