Atlantic Stargazer, Uranoscopus scaber

Facts about Atlantic Stargazers

The Atlantic Stargazer Uranoscopus scaber gets its name from the way in which it buries itself in the sand with only its eyes and mouth pointing upward.  It is also a very well camouflaged fish, with its spotted, brown body resembling the sandy habitat in which it hides.  This burying behavior allows the Stargazer to ambush prey as they swim overhead!

Fast Facts
Scientific name:
Uranoscopus scaber
Range:Eastern Atlantic, mostly in the Black and Mediterranean seas
Length:14-40 cm
Lifespan:5-6 yrs
Reproduction:Spawning occurs from March to September
Diet:Fish, crabs
Predators:Natural predators unknown but subject to bycatch in fisheries
IUCN Conservation status:Least concern

This fascinating fish also has an unusual way of attracting its prey, which consists mainly of smaller fish and crabs.  By moving a small strip of skin in and out of its mouth, it tricks its prey into thinking the flesh may be a small piece of food.  Then when the small fish or crab approaches, the Stargazer lunges toward it, engulfing the prey completely with its large mouth!


Atlantic Stargazer. feo. Photo credit: Philippe Guillaume/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

And if ambush and trickery were not enough, the Atlantic Stargazer has more weapons at its disposal!  It even has the ability to stun its prey using electrical shocks, although at 50 volts these are likely too weak to harm humans.  These lethal predators also have a sharp, venomous organ called a humeral spine, which is used to defend the fish against predators.