Stargazers are a family that have eyes on top of their heads.
The name Stargazer derives from this peculiar setting of its eyes. It belongs to the family Uranoscopidae, of which are perciform fish,meaning it has a “perch-like” body. They belong to the class of ray-finned fish, which has over 10,000 species in all aquatic Eco-systems.
Stargazers have two large venomous spines located behind their opercles and above their pectoral fins. They are not only venomous, some species within the genera; Uranoscopus and Astroscopus can cause electric shocks. The two species differ in that, the Astroscopus has a single electric organ consisting of modified eye muscles. Where as the Uranoscopus species have theirs derived from sonic muscles.These two genera of stargazer are unique among electric fish, they do not possess specialized electro-receptors. Stargazers are some of few marine bio-electrogenic bony fish, the other one is the striped catfish. These two Stargazer genera are out of eight total independent evolution’s of bioelectrogenesis
Along with its top-mounted eyes, stargazers have a large, upward-facing mouth positioned forward and upward looking on a large head. Some species may have a worm-shaped lure which grows from the floor of the mouth. This can be wiggled, attracting attention to prey passing overhead. Stargazers prefer to ambush their prey by burying themselves in the sand, leaping upwards, catching prey coming to investigate the lure. They have relatively long dorsal and anal fins, some have dorsal spines too. In adulthood they grow to a length of 18 cm up to a huge 90 cm, for the Giant Stargazer Kathetostoma giganteum
In some countries they are classed as a delicacy. The venom, when properly cooked is not poisonous. Stargazers found on fish markets usually have had the electric organ already removed. Sometimes called the “meanest thing in creation”, due to the fact they can deliver both venom and electric shocks to its predators. Stargazers can be locally known as the mother-in-law fish!
Photo by Janet Bulmer @ Dive Smart Gozo
Divesite: Mgarr ix-Xini