These fish have eyes on top of their heads and have a curious appearance. They are called Stargazer for this reason.
The stargazer has large, upward-facing mouth in addition to top-mounted eyes on large head. Brilliant adaptations for an ambush predator include the protruding eyes and grimacing mouth. And when they are all that you can see of the fish, they have a very otherworldly appearance.
Venomous Stargazers (family Uranoscopidae) have two sizable venomous spines that are located above and behind their pectoral fins and behind their opercles. Like electric eels, some stargazer species can also deliver electric shocks. However, they stand out from other electric fish in that they lack specialized electroreceptors.
Some of these dangerous men are capable of both delivering venom and electric shocks. They conceal themselves by burying themselves in the seafloor sand, then ambush their prey from that position.
The stargazer is therefore buried there, taking its time, and probably contemplating food and other things. The added benefit of being buried alive is that it protects the fish from their own enemies swimming above. Some species can wiggle a worm-shaped lure that grows from the bottom of their mouths to catch the attention of their prey (fish and crustaceans).
According to systemicist Martin Gomon of Australia’s Museum Victoria, “they can stick this out of the mouth when they’re burrowed, resembling a segmented worm to draw the attention of other fish.” (Anglerfish use a similar trick, but their lures are actually altered dorsal spines.)
Dr. William Leo Smith, an ichthyologist, mockingly referred to them as “the meanest things in creation.” Indeed, curious fish hoping for a quick meal could end up with an unhealthy dose of death. The prey is dragged to its death by the resulting vacuum when the stargazer simply opens its gaping maw quickly. In fact, it works so well that the fish doesn’t even need big, sharp teeth to snag prey. Therefore, its teeth are rather small.
However, observers of the night sky can also become prey, including humans. They are available for purchase in some fish markets with the electric organ removed and are considered a delicacy in some cultures (the venom is not poisonous when eaten).
But there are some significant difficulties with the stargazer’s way of life. For instance, it has to be concerned about sand being stirred up by the water that emerges from its submerged gills. A potential prey animal will swim away quickly if it notices the substrate bubbling up around the predator. The stargazer has therefore developed a cunning adaptation: the edges of its gill covers have projections resembling fingers that better disperse the water coming out rather than shooting it out as a solid jet.
The fish’s mouth is also frilled to prevent sand from entering as it gulps water. And it’s not just that the stargazer doesn’t want to suffocate to death. Of course, sand is very abrasive. Gomon explains, “What you want to do is minimize the amount of sand that gradually harms the gills.”
Therefore, remaining invisible has a cost. However, as you can see below, it’s a tactic that ultimately pays off.
Brilliant adaptations for an ambush predator include the protruding eyes and grimacing mouth. Would you not think it looked like the ocean floor?
A stargazer looks like this when they are not buried in the sand. This poor man went too near the water…
Now check out how the stargazer hunts. Its tongue is hanging out to lure prey…
A tasty cardinalfish is approaching
Just after a lashing out with its tongue…
Feel like having seen this sated alien face in some alien movie?
Back to observing the stars after the mission is finished!
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