Peacock flounder

Bothus lunatus family

Bothidae taxonomy

Pleuronectes lunatus Linnaeus, 1758, Bahamas. other common names

French: Rombou lune; Spanish: Lenguado ocelado. physical characteristics

Sinistral flatfish with an oval and moderately deep body. Rounded to bluntly pointed caudal fin. The dorsal profile of the snout has a distinct notch above the nostrils, and there is a stout spine on the snout of adult males (a bony knob in females). Eyes are relatively large, with the lower eye distinctly anterior to the upper and with a broad interorbital space that is conspicuously wider in males. The moderately large and oblique mouth extends slightly beyond a vertical line through the anterior margin of the lower eye. Jaws have an irregular double row of small teeth. Ocular side upper pectoral fin rays are conspicuously elongate in males. Scales are ctenoid on the ocular side and cycloid on the blind side. The lateral line has a steep arch above the pectoral fin. Ocular side is grayish brown,

with numerous bright blue rings and rosettes covering the entire ocular side and with two to three large blackish spots on the straight portion of the lateral line. Larger individuals also have dark transverse bands on the ocular side pectoral fin. Maximum lengths to about 17.7 in (45 cm), with most individuals about 13.8 in (35 cm) long.

distribution

Marine coastal waters of the tropical and subtropical western Atlantic, including Bermuda, the Bahamas, Florida, throughout the Caribbean, and south to Fernando de Noronha, Brazil.

habitat

Shallow waters from the shore to about 213 ft (65 m). Found chiefly on sandy bottoms, often within or near coral reefs, and also in sea grass and mangrove habitats.

behavior

Diurnally active. Often observed resting on the sandy bottom, sometimes partially buried in the sand. Occasional specimens are also observed resting on top of small coral reef tops. When swimming, they glide along just above the bottom using wavelike motions. Peacock flounder can change colors rapidly to blend in with the background.

feeding ecology and diet

Visually feeding, ambush predator that eats primarily small fishes but also consumes crustaceans and octopuses. They often lie in wait on sand patches adjacent to reef areas to intercept small fishes undertaking crepuscular migrations between reef and sea grass habitats. Lizard fishes, snappers, groupers, and various sharks and stingrays eat peacock flounders.

reproductive biology

Off Bonaire in December, peacock flounder spawning took place just before sunset, with elaborate spawning behavior observed for mating pairs. Males and females would approach each other with pectoral fins held erect to initiate courtship activity. The male, with its ocular side pectoral fin held erect, first paralleled the female as they swam above the substrate.

The male then positioned himself underneath the female; with their snouts touching and the male's body arched backward, the pair began a slow rise (about 15 seconds) of about 6.6 ft (2 m) off the bottom, when they simultaneously released their gametes and rapidly returned to the bottom.

conservation status

Probably not threatened, but population status is unknown throughout most of its distribution. Because of its size and food qualities, this species could be susceptible to local over-fishing.

significance to humans

Peacock flounder are caught incidentally in artisanal fisheries throughout their range. ♦

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