Benthic fishes including stargazers, flounders and flatheads. Part 13 of my documentary, "Mucky Secrets", about the fascinating marine creatures of the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia.
After a quick look at the panther grouper, Cromileptes altivelis, also known as the humpback grouper or barramundi cod, I explore demersal fishes, those that live on or near the seabed. Of these, benthic fishes actually rest on the sea floor.
The whitemargin stargazer, Uranoscopus sulphureus, spends most of its time buried in the substrate, with only its upper, or dorsal, surface exposed, where its eyes and mouth are located. Like frogfishes, stargazers are ambush predators. They have a worm-like lure that extends from the upturned mouth to attract fish that pass overhead. Stargazers are also equipped with poisonous spines at the rear of the operculum, the gill cover. The papillae fringing the mouth help stop sand from falling in when the fish is buried.
The leopard flounder, Bothus pantherinus, has adapted to life on the bottom with a superb camouflage. Such lefteye flounders are symmetrical and swim upright like other fishes when young. As they develop, the eye on the right side migrates to the left, thus enabling them to lie flat on the bottom. Their eye stalks can be retracted for protection, but enhance their view when extended.
Flatheads also have excellent camouflage and a stealthy, low profile, but unlike flounders, they are dorsally compressed and remain symmetrical. They are also ambush predators, and often hide by burying much of their body in the substrate. Flatheads are related to scorpionfishes and have short, venomous spines on top of their head.