Stargazer, Uranoscopidae

The stargazer is a family of fish of the Uranoscopidae family. There are about 51 species of stargazer fish in eight genera. They are found worldwide in shallow saltwater. One species of stargazer is extinct, the Astroscopus countermani. A cranium was found of this species in the Calvert Cliffs of Maryland, and is very similar to the living stargazers of today.

The stargazer has eyes on top of its large head. The mouth is also large and faces upward. A trait of the stargazer is that it will bury itself in the sandy bottom and leap upward to ambush and consume its prey.  Some of the stargazer species have a worm-shaped lure growing from its mouth to attract prey. It will wiggle the extension to get the attention of its prey, then as the unsuspecting food swims overhead, the stargazer will quickly catch and consume it.

The stargazer have both fairly long dorsal (top) and anal (bottom) fins. The body lengths average from 7 inches for the smallest species to 36 inches for the largest species: the giant stargazer (Kathetostoma giganteum).

Stargazers have two venomous spines and in the genera of Astroscopus and Uranoscopus can cause an electric shock. In the Astroscopus genera, the electric organ is located on modified eye muscles while the Uranoscopus uses sonic muscles.

Image Caption: Sketch of a stargazer (Uranoscopidae). Credit: William Buelow Gould/Wikipedia (public domain)