Stargazers

The stargazers (Uranoscopidae) are a family belonging to the order Perciformes, which are grouped into eight genera (Astroscopus, Genyagnus, Ichthyscopus, Kathetostoma, Pleuroscopus, Selenoscopus, Uranoscopus, Xenocephalus) and in which a total of 53 species have been described. This is a family of marine fish, although occasionally we can find some of the species in estuaries, and are present in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. They usually inhabit shallow waters where they are found on the bottom or semi-buried in it, although occasionally specimens of certain species have been reported at depths of up to 600 meters.

The body of stargazers is characterized by the presence of a large cuboid-shaped head, in which the eyes are located at the top, as well as a large oblique mouth that opens upwards. The dorsal fin is unique and relatively elongated, being frequent in some species the absence of spiny rays. The anal fin has between 12 and 18 soft rays. They have two poisonous spines that are connected at their base to venomous glands. These spines are located just above the pectoral fins and behind the operculum. The maximum size is reached by the species Kathetostoma giganteum, which reaches a maximum total length of up to 90 cm.

They usually bury themselves in the sand, from where only the head is visible. In this way, and thanks to the coloration of their body, they go completely unnoticed by their prey, among which we find invertebrates and fish. In some species of this family, a fleshy, worm-like appendage grows from the bottom of their mouths, which they use as a lure to attract the attention of their prey. When one of the prey passes unnoticed over the stargazer, it will quickly jump up to gobble it up in the blink of an eye.

There are species within the genera Astroscopus and Uranoscopus, which are capable of causing electric shocks.


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