Flatfish are so cool

Photo credit: NOAA

If you haven’t had the chance to meet a flatfish, it’s a must! They are masters of disguise, spend most of their lives living on their side and are quite gregarious, all of which makes for great entertainment. There are more than 500 species of flatfish in the world. The halibut is probably the most well-known flatfish, others include flounders, soles, turbots, sanddabs, plaices and tonguefish.

What makes flatfish so special is that they actually start their lives upright like the vast majority of fish, but after a few days, one eye begins to migrate to the other side of the head! The migration of the eye takes a few days to a couple of months depending on the water temperature and other factors. Some flatfish rotate their left eye and some their right eye, it really depends on the species.

Once the eye finishes migrating, a flatfish begins living their life on the side, literally. This side existence is perfect for blending in with the ocean floor and living an incognito life out of sight from potential predators. Flatfish eat small fish, shrimp, squid, clams and marine worms. For halibut, this diet can lead to reaching up to 900 pounds! I’ve also heard as big as 1.5 tons. The smallest flatfish, the pygmy tonguefish, reaches a mere three inches.

But the true genius of the flatfish is their ability to camouflage, stay tuned for a future post on the masters of disguise.


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