The stargazer – Uranoscopidae – is a family of marine fish named after its most conspicuous feature: the eyes placed on the top of the head, looking upwards, apparently at the sky, monitoring the column of water above them. Widespread mainly in the Indo-Pacific region, these strange-looking creatures prefer areas where the substrate is suitable for hiding, such as muddy and sandy coastal areas and reefs, where the water is warm and up to a few meters deep and where the small crustaceans they feed on are plentiful.
Physical and Behavioral Characteristics Specific to the Stargazer (Scorpaenidae)
Stargazers are about 20-80 cm long and usually weigh a little over 1 kg (2.2 pounds). Their sand-colored body is muscular and perfectly adapted to the environment, making stargazers real masters of camouflage. Besides their top-mounted eyes, they also have upturned mouths to make it even easier for them to snatch their food from the water around. Some species of stargazers have a special organ that increases their success as predators even further, a lure that protrudes from their mouths and attracts prey, while others have organs developed from a muscle that is able to deliver electric shocks up to 50 volts strong. Stargazers are venomous but they resort to their venom only when threatened and never to capture food. When attacked or stepped on, they use their venomous spines placed above the pectoral fins to sting the enemy.
The Stargazers – Patient Carnivores
Stargazers are carnivores, and they are not very picky – they would eat anything they can capture, including other small fish, small squids, octopuses and other invertebrates.
While hunting for food, they bury themselves in the substrate with only their mouths and eyes protruding, then they wait until something delicious floats by and they snatch their victim with the help of their large mouths, lined with numerous sharp teeth. The species that have electric organs use them to paralyze their prey.
The Stargazer – Scorpaenidae – Mating and Reproduction
The Uranoscopidae reproduce by spawning, from May to July. When the mating season comes, females look for an area where the water is more shallow than in the area they normally live in and they release their eggs into the water. The eggs are then fertilized by the males, after which they float close to the water surface until they hatch. When the stargazer (Scorpaenidae) larvae reach the length of approximately one cm, they descend to the sea bed to find a suitable place to bury themselves in, looking for food.