Astroscopus guttatus Abbott, 1860, Cape May, New Jersey.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
Squarish head with flattened dorsal surface and large, vertical mouth with fringed lips lacking the worm-like appendage characteristic of some other species. Eyes situated dorsally and robust and scaled body. Two dorsal fins, the first with four to five spines and the second with 13–15 segmented rays; anal fin with one spine and 12 segmented rays. Large pectoral fins and cleithral spine just dorsal of the pectoral fin. Small, irregular, white spots on dark background dorsally and gray ventrally with obscure blotches. First dorsal fin dark, second dorsal fin with several distinct oblique bars, caudal fin with alternating black and white stripes, and pectoral fin dark with a pale margin. Grows to 22 in (56 cm) and 20 lb (9.1 kg). Has electric organs modified from the eye muscles in pouches behind the eyes reported to produce up to 50 volts.
Eastern coast of North America from New York south to North Carolina. One report as far south as Honduras.
Sandy substrate in coastal waters to 130 ft (40 m).
Benthic, spending most of its time buried in the substrate.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
A sit-and-wait predator that lies buried on the bottom, with only the top of the head, eyes, and mouth exposed, waiting for small fishes or crustaceans. Lunges at prey aggressively and sucks prey into the large mouth.
Spawns in spring and summer on the bottom, producing pelagic eggs. Larvae are pelagic, settling on sandy bottoms of inshore bays at about 0.6 in (15 mm), remaining there until they grow to 8–12 in (20–30 cm), when they move further offshore.
Not listed by the IUCN.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Of no commercial or recreational value. When caught, it should be handled with care, owing to the sharp, possibly venomous cleithral spine and the electric organs.
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