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The Flying Gurnard

Flying gurnards, comprising the family Dactylopteridae, are so named because they have very large, rounded pectoral fins that allow them to glide through the water, giving the illusion that they are able to “fly.”

Near the gills there are two large hook-like spurs, that give the impression of hands, protruding forward from their pectoral fins. These spurs, taken together with their squarish heads and heavy armored bodies, make them look almost pre-historic.

They are bottom dwellers, and they are often observed ‘walking’ across the sandy bottom using their pelvic fins. Most species live in the Indo-Pacific, although there is one species native to the Atlantic/Caribbean area. The species Dactyloptena orientalis is generally found in tropical waters in the western Pacific and beyond.

Did You Know?  If threatened, they spread their pectoral fins to reveal bright markings, probably to startle predators and send a visual warning that makes the gurnard appear both toxic and much larger than it really is.