Weird fish of the week: Stargazers

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Our new series kicks off with a bizarre-looking group of marine fish: the stargazers.

The stargazers belong to the family Uranoscopidae. Distribution is the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.

These weird-looking marine fish have a particularly startling appearance when viewed from above, as their features look almost skull-like. This is due to the fact that these fish have eyes situated at the top of their large head and a big, upward-facing mouth. They use their pectoral fins as shovels in order to bury themselves in the substrate, so that only the top of the fish tends to be visible. This habit of sitting camouflaged on the bottom looking upward, has led to their common name of stargazers.

Some of these fish are venomous, having large spines behind the gill cover. Astroscopus species can also deliver an electric shock of up to 50 volts, so they definitely need handling with care, if at all. Astroscopus are also equipped with internal nostrils so they can bring in water through their nostrils to breathe, rather than through their mouths.

Some species are 'lie-in-wait' predators, whereas others have a worm-like lure with which to attract dinner.

They range in size from around 45cm-90cm/18-36", depending on species. The Giant stargazer, Kathetostoma giganteum, is the largest species.