Atlantic Stargazer – Uranoscopus scaber
The Atlantic Stargazer is a species in the large clade of Percomorpha and thus belongs to the superclass of the bony fish.
The body of the Atlantic Stargazer is elongated and cylindrical. The front part makes a very massive impression.
From the side line upwards is Uranoscopus scaber sand coloured with a dark pattern, while it is white from the side line downwards. The first dorsal fin is black, with all other fins showing a slight, blue-lighted shimmer.
Both his mouth and his eyes are directed upwards.
The Atlantic Stargazer reaches a maximum size of 40cm.
Habitat and Distribution
Uranoscopus scaber preferably lives on sandy ground, down to a depth of 200m.
When diving in the Canaries it is very rare.
The distribution area of the sky giant covers the eastern Atlantic from the south coast of Great Britain, through Morocco, to Senegal, including Madeira and Cape Verde. It is also found in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.
The Atlantic Stargazer is mostly buried in the sand up to its eyes and wait for the right prey to pass by. He can make a worm-like bait out of his mouth to lure fish. Uranoscopus scaber feeds on small fish, cephalopods, invertebrates and crustaceans. It catches its victims with a rapid upward movement of the head.
Furthermore it can make small, electric shocks to stun its prey. Thereby, the Atlantic Stargazer is the only species in the superorder of the Acanthopterygii , that has an organ to produce electricity.
Reproduction and Evolution
Although there is still little known about the mating behaviour of Uranoscopus scaber, there is one. Here, too, the electrical organ is being used.
In the Mediterranean, the spawning season is in early spring, while larvae are found all year round on the Italian coast. The eggs of the Atlantic Stargazer live pelagic until the larvae settle over weeks on the coast and the ground, preferably in sea grass meadows, and begin to live predatory.
They start burying themself as juvenile fishes. From a length of 15-20cm, thus with about one year they become sexually mature. Females become longer and much heavier. They can release up to 60000 eggs of 2mm size each. At the examined places, there were twice as much males as females.
Uranoscopus scaber reaches a maximum age of 6 years.