Bovichtus variegatus is a Thornfish of the family Bovichtidae, found around New Zealand from the Wellington area southwards to New Zealand’s sub-antarctic islands, in rock pools and on shallow rocky reefs. Their length is between 5.91 and 9.84 in(15 and 25 cm).
The Thornfish is a small scaleless fish of round cross-section, with a wide flattened head, large upward-looking eyes, and large mouth. There are two distinctive strong spines directed upward and backward on each gill cover behind the eyes, and there are two separate dorsal fins, the first being spiny. The large pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins have thickened rays that act as props when the fish is resting on the bottom.
The color is quite variable, ranging from olive-brown to silvery-red with markings of red, green, orange, pink, and white. The fins are often yellowish with lines of darker spots along the rays.
These fish feed by foraging for crustaceans and worms on the bottom, using their many minute teeth set in a number of bands in each jaw.
Illustration by Dr Tony Ayling