Spiny Gurnards feature large colourful fins and venomous spines that help searching for food.

Eastern Spiny GuarnardEastern Spiny Gurnard   © Klaus Stiefel

Gurnards, also called Sea Robins, are recognised by their beautiful large pectoral fins which they flap like wings, opening and closing them while swimming. This colourful display is mainly intended to distract predators.
These fish are bottom dwellers which spend their time searching for food along the shallow ocean floor. However, some species have been observed to leap out and glide short distances above the water, utilising the large surface area of their fins, much like flying fish.

Most species of Gurnards have six spiny ‘legs’, three to each side of the front of their body. These legs are actually flexible spines that were once part of the pectoral fin. Over time, the spines separated themselves from the rest, developing into feeler-like forelegs. At first glance the legs appear to let the fish walk on the ocean floor but they are actually used as a sensory receptor, carefully detecting and stirring up food.

Another distinctive feature of these fish is the presence of a ‘drumming muscle’ that makes sounds by beating against the swim bladder. When caught, Gurnards make a croaking noise similar to a frog, therefore naming the species after the French verb grogner, which means ‘to grunt’.

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