Camouflage can be obvious when an animal is not in its natural habitat. Mottled patterns, brown and olive coloration and clear fins all work to help an animal blend into common places in the Chesapeake Bay. What about stripes? Horizontal stripes are thought to break up the visual perception of an animal to a predator; vertical stripes help it blend into habitats like grass beds. Dark spots on the body are meant to direct attention away from an animal's eyes...if a predator does not know which way you are aiming, it might miss when it goes in for a strike. Animals like the oyster toadfish take camouflage to the extreme. They are mottled, colored like the bottom and the have fleshy bits dangling off their heads in a random bearded display. Combined, these adaptations allow the toadfish to blend into its oyster bed habitat and escape full detection. Other camouflage is not so obvious - did you know that being silver and flashy is a good thing in the bay? Justification: being reflective, silvery fish reflect the coloration of the water around them when viewed from the side. They become cloaked in whatever color the water is.

Another camouflage that many animals use is called counter shading. Ever notice how many animals have dark backs and light bellies? When viewed from above, dark backs blend into the ground or bottom of the bay; when viewed from below, lighter bellies blend into the sun lit area above whether it is the water or the air.

The ultimate camouflage artists are the decorator crabs. These animals pick things off the bottom around them (such as sponge, sea grass, sand or shell) then use a sticky paste made in the mouth to glue the item to their exoskeleton. Sneaky!

Only a select few of these species are on exhibit at any time, though all are representative of Camouflage adaptations.


Atlantic spadefish

Scientific name: 
Chaetodipterus faber

Habitat: marine, brackish, reef-associated, oceanodromous; depth range 3-35m. Shallow coastal waters from mangroves and sandy beaches to wrecks and harbors.

Key characteristics for distinction: Dorsal spines 9, dorsal rays 21-24, anal spines 3, anal soft rays 17-18. Deep-bodied, compressed, disk shaped with very blunt snout. Irregular blackish vertical bands that fade as fish ages. Mouth is small. No teeth on roof of mouth.

Coloration: Silver in color with irregular black vertical bands that will fade as the fish ages.

Feeding habits/specializations: Benthic invertebrates like crustaceans, mollusks, annelids, cnidarians and plankton.

Reproduction: Spawning season runs from May to September on inner shelf off the US coast. Single female may release up to one million eggs each season. Eggs are buoyant and small. Bands develop after time. Juveniles reside in very shallow water and will often swim at an angle which disguises them as fallen dead leaves or mangrove pods.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 3 feet, common 1.6 feet

Predators: Sharks like the smalltail shark and large fishes like the tripletail.

Importance to humans: fishing/commerical

Conservation status: Harvest levels unknown, no management plan in place to monitor harvesting. Not listed as endangered.

Fun facts: Common names – angelfish, threetailed porgy, moonfish. Popular in sport fishing due to abundance and strong fight for their size. Danger to humans – Reported cases of ciguatera from consumption; ciguatera poisoning is caused by dinoflagellates (microalgae) found on dead corals; smaller fish feed on these corals and other microalgae so the toxin accumulates and these fish are then consumed by larger fish where the poison accumulates at even higher rates. These fish are then eaten by humans; it’s rare but can cause illness for several days.


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Bay whiff

Scientific name: 
Citharichthys spilopterus

Habitat: Marine; freshwater; brackish; demersal; depth range 0 - 75 m. Shallow coastal habitats. Wide environmental tolerances allows the bay whiff to thrive in multiple latitudes and habitats.

Key characteristics for distinction: Flatfish. Both eyes on left side of head. Characterized by separate dorsal and anal fins and large eyes.

Coloration: The body is mostly brown, often with small, obscure spots.

Feeding habits/specializations: Ambush predator. Other fish and larger crustaceans. Camouflage to hide from prey.

Reproduction: Spawning seasons for C. spilopterus vary with location, and is most likely a factor of water temperature.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 7.8 in

Predators: Other larger fish and invertebrates. Hides from predators using camouflage.

Importance to humans: minor commercial fishing

Conservation status: not evaluated




Scientific name:
Tautogolabrus adspersus

Habitat: Marine: reef-associated; depth range 10 - 128 m. Inhabits shallow, inshore waters, living on or near the bottom, often congregating in masses around wharves, wrecks and submerged seaweed. During winter they become torpid and remain inshore under rocks in shallow water.

Key characteristics for distinction: They can be distinguished from the tautog by their pointed snouts. Small, slender fish that belongs to the wrasse family of fish. It is characterized by a single, long dorsal fin, with sharp spines forward and soft rays in the rear. The cunner has distinct iridescent blue streaks running from its mouth back to its gill cover, and it has large scales and tough skin with a vertically flattened body. Its flat-topped head has a pointed snout and a small mouth, generally exposing several of the sharp teeth. The cunner's tail fin is blunt with rounded corners. This species is closely related to and often incorrectly identified as a tautog, though the cunner is generally smaller, not as stout bodied, and has thinner lips than the tautog.

Coloration: Green gray with some blotching; can change color to blend in with the bottom. Electric blue streaks running from mouth back to gill cover.

Feeding habits/specializations: Cunners are aggressive omnivores as well as scavengers. They feed on barnacles, mollusks, shrimp, crabs, amphipods, small fish, and almost any other available food sources, including eelgrass.

Reproduction: The cunner spawns chiefly from late spring through early summer. The eggs are buoyant, transparent, 0.75 to 0.85 mm. in diameter, and they do not have an oil globule.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 15 in

Predators: larger fish, seabirds

Importance to humans: Not sought after as a gamefish; considered a pest to fishermen as they steal bait.

Conservation status: least concern

Fun facts: They can be confused with black sea bass and other grouper, as well as tautog, for their ability to change color.



Feather blenny

Scientific name: 
Hypsoblennius hentz

Habitat: Marine: reef-associated. Usually live among oyster reefs, but may also be found within eelgrass beds.

Key characteristics for distinction: Scaleless body. Long, continuous dorsal fins along the back. Feather blennies have two feathery, branching tentacles on the head.

Coloration: Olive green body with small, dark spots on the head. The body is covered with small, dark spots that sometimes form lines or bars.

Feeding habits/specializations: small mollusks and crustaceans

Reproduction: Spawn from early spring through August; females lay round amber colored eggs inside empty oyster shells; males aggressively guard eggs until they hatch.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 4 in

Predators: larger fish such as striped bass, bluefish, weakfish; hides from them within small crevices of oyster reefs.

Importance to humans: aquarium use only; not sought after as a commercial fish

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun fact: Secretive fish and solitary! Difficult to find but keep an eye out for open oyster shells that might have a blenny hiding out.


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Fringed flounder

Scientific name: 
Etropus crossotus

Habitat: Inhabits sandy and muddy bottoms. Common in estuaries.

Key characteristics for distinction: Body oval shaped, flattened laterally, left-eyed. Low arch in anterior lateral line just behind head; forehead flat, not notched; eyes close together; mouth oblique, nearly vertical, very small, not extending below lower eye edge. Most distinguishing feature is small mouth.

Coloration: color brown, no distinct markings, lighter underneath

Feeding habits/specializations: Feeds on big, benthic invertebrates and small fishes. Ambush predator. Other fish and larger crustaceans. Camouflage to hide from prey.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 8 in

Predators: Other larger fish and invertebrates. Hides from predators using camouflage.

Importance to humans: minor commercial fishing

Conservation status: not evaluated




Scientific name: 
Trinectes maculatus

Habitat: Marine; freshwater; brackish; demersal; amphidromous. Adults inhabit coastal waters. They also enter fresh waters, going hundreds of miles upstream. Prefers sandy, silty or muddy bottoms. Bottom dweller.

Key characteristics for distinction: Flat rounded body, small eyes that are both located on the top side of the body; rounded head with small mouth; dorsal and anal fins stretch around the body from head to tail; rounded tail fin.

Coloration: dark brownish-gray top and pale bottom.

Feeding habits/specializations: Eats worms and crustaceans. Hunts for prey by lying half-buried in bottom sediments while both eyes look up.

Reproduction: Migrate downstream to spawn in spring. Larvae move upstream after hatching. Spawns May-September inshore. Young born with one eye on each side and as larvae develop, the left eye travels over the head next to the right.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 8 in

Predators: Conceals itself from predators by burying itself in bottom sediments and changing colors to blend in with surroundings. Usually preyed upon by larger fish and seabirds.

Importance to humans: no fishery interest

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun fact: The name hogchoker comes from farmers who used to feed this fish to their hogs, but the hogs would often have difficulty eating the tough scales and bony body.


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Inshore lizardfish

Scientific name: 
Synodus foetens

Habitat: Marine; brackish; reef-associated; depth range 0 - 200 m. Adults are found on both shallow and deep sand flats among, inshore in saltwater creeks, rivers, bays, and deep channels within lagoons. Probably more dense over mud than shell or calcareous bottom. Also found in the open ocean over continental shelf.

Key characteristics for distinction: Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 10-13; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 11 - 13; Vertebrae: 56 - 62. Body elongate, cylindrical; head depressed, broader than deep, slightly rugose above, interorbital space concave; snout triangular, pointed, projecting beyond tip of mandible, typically longer than diameter of eye in specimens larger than 20.0 cm SL; 6-7 oblique rows of scales present on cheeks; top of head naked. Mouth very large, gape extends well past eye; upper jaw projects slightly, premaxillaries form entire margin of upper jaw; large, sharp depressible teeth present on upper jaw, tongue and lower pharyngeals. Scales small (except for patch of large elongate scales present below pectoral base and above pelvic base), lateral line well marked, not keeled.

Coloration: Color variable with both locality and immediate background; dorsum brownish or olivaceous and with overall greenish cast; mid-lateral line with about 8 obscure blotches, variable in occurrence and intensity, fading wit growth; head brownish with light vermiculations on top and sides, pale yellow below; belly white, silvery white, or yellowish, sometimes with brownish punctuations; pectorals dusky, yellowish, or light green; adipose with dark spot posteriorly.

Feeding habits/specializations: A solitary voracious predator that lurks in shallow bays and shore waters.

Reproduction: Oviparous, newly hatched larvae are found near the surface at depths from 27 to 46 m.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 19 in

Predators: birds, sharks, other fish

Importance to humans: subsistence fisheries

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun fact: Commonly caught by anglers but considered a nuisance.



Naked goby

Scientific name: 
Gobiosoma bosc

Habitat: Marine; brackish; demersal. Inhabit estuaries and weedy, protected coastal waters. Young are found in the same places as adults. Usually live among oyster reefs, but may also be found within eelgrass beds and around rocks and pilings. Naked gobies may bury themselves in bottom sediments in winter.

Key characteristics for distinction: Elongated body. Large mouth with large, closely set eyes on top of the head. Two separate dorsal fins. Fused pelvic fins that act as suction discs. Naked gobies are scaleless.

Coloration: Naked gobies are dark greenish-brown with 8-10 light bars running along the sides.

Feeding habits/specializations: Feed mainly on annelids and small crustaceans; also attracted to injured or dead oysters.

Reproduction: Spawn in May-November. Females lay bundles of small, amber-colored eggs inside of empty oyster shells. Males aggressively guard the eggs until they hatch. Free-swimming naked goby larvae may migrate upstream and school over oyster reefs before settling.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 2.3 in

Predators: Larger fish such as striped bass, bluefish and weakfish. Hide from predators within small crevices of oyster reefs.

Importance to humans: not a gamefish; aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun facts: Naked gobies are scaleless.



Northern stargazer

Scientific name: 
Astroscopus guttatus

Habitat: benthic species, living most of its life on or under the bottom. It is found inshore, at depths to 120 feet (36 m).

Key characteristics for distinction: The body is moderately elongate. Its pectoral fins act as shovels, enabling the fish to bury itself in a matter of seconds. The eyes and nostrils are strategically located on the top of the head so that they will remain above the sand when the fish is buried. Unlike most species of fish that bring water in through their mouths to breathe, the stargazer breathes through its nostrils. The nostrils are protected from sand grains by fleshy, comb-shaped fringes. The mouth also has these fringes around it to keep sand out while the fish is buried. The eyes are capable of protruding for a short distance, appearing stalked, for a limited amount of time to allow the fish to gaze over the bottom. The stargazer does this by filling the tissues behind the eyes with liquid. (The southern stargazer, Astroscopus y-graecum, closely resembles the northern stargazer in appearance and in life history. An easy way to tell these two species apart is to note the middle stripe on the tail. On the northern stargazer, this stripe extends onto the rear portion of the body; on the southern stargazer this stripe does not extend pass the tail.)

Coloration: The blackish-brown body is covered with white spots that gradually increase in size towards the rear of the body. Top of head and body has small, closely spaced white dots. There are three dark, horizontal stripes on the tail.

Feeding habits/specializations: The diet of the northern stargazer consists of smaller fish that are unlucky enough to swim near it. The electrical organ is not used to capture prey. Its main function is to protect the stargazer from anything that may pose a threat to the well being of the fish. The stargazer instead relies on its camouflage and lies in wait for a small fish to swim near it. Once the prey is in range, the stargazer rises from the sand and in an instant swallows the fish whole.

Reproduction: spawns on the bottom during the late spring and early summer months. The eggs are small, transparent, and slowly float to the surface. These eggs hatch into small, transparent larvae that live in the water column.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 23 in

Predators: unknown

Importance to humans: Care should be taken if caught live as this species has the ability to produce electrical currents.

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun fact: This fish is able to create weak electrical currents from a specialized organ located behind the eyes.


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Ocellated frogfish

Scientific name: 
Fowlerichthys ocellatus

Habitat: Inhabits rocky and coral reefs.

Key characteristics for distinction: 3 prominent black spots on side, each surrounded by lighter ring; the most interesting feature about members of the frogfish family is their modified illicium which acts like a lure to attract other fish to it. The illicium is the first spine of the dorsal fin. The fish can control the lure causing it to wiggle just in front of its mouth so that any fish coming to investigate will be in the perfect position for the efficient hunter to catch.

Coloration: variety of colors such as yellow, red, pink, brown, grey, blue and orange. These colours help camouflage if the fish as it sits on top of sponges. The black spots all over the fishes body mimics the vents in sponge matter. Their camouflage makes it very difficult to see this fish in its natural habitat.

Feeding habits/specializations: fish or crustaceans; they have an amazing ability to feed on fish larger than their own bodies. The illicium is the first spine of the dorsal fin. The fish can control the lure causing it to wiggle just in front of its mouth so that any fish coming to investigate will be in the perfect position for the efficient hunter to catch.

Reproduction: The eggs are encapsulated in a buoyant mass of mucus referred to as an "egg raft". This allows the mass of eggs to float over large distances before the fry are ready to hatch. There have been no reports of successful breeding in captivity.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 15 in

Predators: limited information/camouflage aides in hiding from predators

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun fact: Largest species of frogfish in western Atlantic.


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Oyster toadfish

Scientific name: 
Opsanus tau

Habitat: Marine; reef-associated. Largely inhabits inshore water on rocky bottoms and reefs, jetties and wrecks. Frequently occurs among litter and tolerates polluted water.

Key characteristics for distinction: Scaleless, flattened body. Fleshy flaps or “whiskers” on the cheeks and jaw. Big, bulging eyes on top of large flat head. Broad mouth with strong rounded teeth. Spiny dorsal fin.

Coloration: Olive-brown back with dark blotches; pale belly.

Feeding habits/specializations: Mostly small crabs/crustaceans. Also eats mollusks and small fish.

Reproduction: Spawning males make a distinctive “foghorn” call to attract a mate. Spawns April-October. Males nest in dark secluded location then call for female. Female lays sticky eggs on nest then leaves. Male protects eggs and keeps nest clean.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 17 in

Predators: May be eaten by sharks. Hides from predators within oyster reefs and rocky areas. Protects itself with strong jaws and spiny dorsal fin.

Importance to humans: Becoming important as an experimental fish because of its size and hardiness.

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun fact: The fish you don’t want to catch but probably will! It has powerful, snapping jaws and sharp spines on the dorsal fin.


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Scientific name: 
Histrio histrio

Habitat: Sargassum fish are found in marine habitats with a depth of 35.3 feet (11 m). The sargassum fish spends it entire life associated with floating sea grass beds - mostly sargassum algae. They can be found in shore and bay waters during times of storms when they get blown inland. Sargassum fish do not do much swimming, rather they just follow the sargassum beds.

Key characteristics for distinction: The sargassum fish has fleshy weed like appendages that blend in with the algae sargassum. Their skin is smooth, lacking dermal spines which distinguish it from other fish in the family. The head and body appear as one unit with no defined separation because the gill openings appear as pores on the lower margin of the pectoral fin (near the base of the fin). The sargassum fish has an upturned mouth with an illium over the margin of the eyes. The illium is a slender tentacle with the tip bearing a bulbous swelling. This fish has a laterally flattened appearance.

Coloration: pale cream to greenish to dark brown. They closely resemble the sargassum alga which allows them to blend in with the plant.

Feeding habits/specializations: shrimp and other fishes that come to the sargassum bed for refuge. They are good predators because their coloration blends in with the sargassum algae, allowing them to ambush their prey. They can also use their illium as a lure for their prey.

Reproduction: During courtship the male follows the female around very closely until they both rush to the surface, where spawning occurs. Eggs are produced in a gelatinous floating mass that the male inseminates through external fertilization. The eggs will remain in the mass until they are ready to hatch.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 7.8 in

Predators: seabirds and larger fish; escape underwater predators by jumping out of the water onto floating seaweed.

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun facts: They can survive out of water for extended periods of time


White Anemone

Sea anemone

Scientific name: 
Actinaria spp.

Habitat: inhabitants of rocky shores and coral reefs around the world; other species can be found at very low depths indeed. Most actinarians are sessile; that is, they live attached to rocks or other substrates and do not move, or move only very slowly by contractions of the pedal disk. A number of anemones burrow into sand, and a few can even swim short distances, by bending the column back and forth or by "flapping" their tentacles.

Key characteristics for distinction: Actinarians have generally column-shaped bodies with the mouth at one end, and the pedal disk -- a muscular organ for attachment to substrates -- at the other. The mouth is on a corresponding structure, the oral disk, which is ringed with rows of tentacles.

Coloration: varies depending on species.

Feeding habits/specializations: preys upon small fish and shrimps.

Reproduction: Actinarian anemones can reproduce either sexually or asexually, but they do not form true colonies with permanent tissue connections between members, unlike the superficially similar zoanthiniarian anemones.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): varies depending on species.

Predators: Highly toxic to fish, starfish and crustaceans so mostly protected but can be eaten if die for other reasons. Sea anemones defend themselves using toxins produced by nematocysts.

Importance to humans: Due to the different relationships various fish, etc make with these anemones, removal or exploitation could result in a negative impact on the ecology of an environment. They are beautiful showcase items for any aquarium but care should be taken in how they are obtained and cared for.

Conservation status: Aquarium fishing have affected numbers in the wild as they have been exploited.

Fun fact: In all, there are about 1000 species of sea anemone in the world's oceans.




Scientific name: 
Archosargus probatocephalus

Habitat: inshore around rock pilings, jetties, mangrove roots, and piers as well as in tidal creeks, the euryhaline sheepshead prefers brackish waters.

Key characteristics for distinction: oval-shaped, deep body with a blunt snout and small, nearly horizontal mouth. The posterior nostril is slit-like in appearance. Dorsal and anal fins include stout, short spines. The second spine of the anal fin is enlarged. Pectoral fins are long, extending beyond the anal opening when appressed (pressed close to the body). The caudal fin is shallowly forked.

Coloration: The adult sheepshead is silvery to greenish-yellow with an olive back. There are five or six dark vertical crossbars along each side, which are most distinct in young individuals. The caudal and pectoral fins are greenish while the dorsal, anal, and ventral fins are dusky or black.

Feeding habits/specializations: Teeth of the sheepshead include well-defined incisors, molars, and grinders. At the front of the jaw are the incisor-like teeth. The molars are arranged in three rows in the upper jaw and two rows in the lower jaw. Heavy, strong teeth are necessary for crushing and grinding the shelled animals that are prey for this fish. Feeding on invertebrates, small vertebrates and occasional plant material.

Reproduction: Adults migrate to offshore waters to spawn, later returning to nearshore waters and estuaries. Spawning frequency ranges from once a day to once every 20 days. Little is known regarding spawning behavior. Depending upon their condition, females may produce from 1,100 to 250,000 eggs per spawning event. One study determined that those fishes found closer to shore averaged 11,000 eggs per spawning event while those offshore averaged 87,000 eggs per batch. The buoyant eggs are approximately 0.8mm in diameter, hatching 28 hours following fertilization at 23°C.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 29.5 in

Predators: sharks and other large fish

Importance to humans: fishing/commercial

Conservation status: not endangered or vulnerable; once over-harvested but management actions have aided recovery.

Fun facts: Other fish that are similar in appearance to the sheepshead include the black drum (Pogonias cromis) and Atlantic spadefish (Chaetodipterus faber). However, the black drum has barbels on the lower jaw and reaches a much larger adult size than the sheepshead. The Atlantic spadefish has a very short snout, a much rounder body shape and a larger soft dorsal and anal fin than the sheepshead. Additionally, the vertical bands on the sides of the black drum and Atlantic spadefish tend to fade with age much more so than the markings of the sheepshead.




Scientific name: 
Gobiesox strumosus

Habitat: Inhabits grassy and rocky shallow areas and around pilings. Usually lives among oyster reefs, but may also be found within eelgrass beds

Key characteristics for distinction: Frying pan shaped body. Large suction disk on underside of body formed by modified pelvic fins. Broad flat head with tiny eyes, strong teeth and fleshy lips

Coloration: Varies in color from pale grey to dark brown with mottled pattern. Dark band at base of rounded tail fin.

Feeding habits/specializations: Feeds mostly on bristle worms and small crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods

Reproduction: Spawns in April-August. The female lays a few hundred sticky, amber-colored eggs into an empty oyster shell. The male guards the eggs until they hatch.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 3 in

Predators: Brown speckled coloring allows it to blend in with oyster shells and bottom sediments. Hides from predators within small crevices of oyster reefs

Importance to humans: aquarium use

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun facts: Gets its name from its frying pan-shaped body.


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Smallmouth flounder

Scientific name: 
Etropus microstomus

Habitat: It is a demersal fish that lives on saltwater bottoms.

Key characteristics for distinction: Flatfish. Eyes on left side small and separated by ridge. Lateral line nearly straight.

Coloration: pale brown with or without dusky blotches.

Feeding habits/specializations: fish, worms, shrimps at sea bottom.

Reproduction: Spawning occurs in nearshore waters from June through October. Female flounders lay their eggs, all 500,000 of them on the bottom of the river/lake where the males come along not to long after and fertilize them. 15-18 days later little fish are born.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 5 in

Predators: larger fish, sharks

Importance to humans: very small size makes it a non-desirable gamefish.

Conservation status: not evaluated

Sources:,, “field guide to fishes of the Chesapeake Bay”


Striped blenny

Scientific name: 
Chasmodes bosquianus

Habitat: Marine; brackish; demersal. Usually live among oyster reefs, but may also be found within eelgrass beds.

Key characteristics for distinction: Scaleless body. Long, continuous dorsal fins along the back. Striped blennies have lines that run along the sides: males are bright blue and females are pale green. Males also have a bright blue spot at the front of the dorsal fin and an orange band running along the fin’s entire length.

Coloration: Olive green body with small, dark spots on the head.

Feeding habits/specializations: small mollusks and crustaceans

Reproduction: Spawn from early spring through August; females lay round amber colored eggs inside empty oyster shells; males aggressively guard eggs until they hatch.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 6 in

Predators: larger fish such as striped bass, bluefish, weakfish; hides from them within small crevices of oyster reefs.

Importance to humans: aquarium use only; not sought after as a commercial fish

Conservation status: not evaluated

Fun facts: Like to hide in open oyster shells.



Stripped burrfish

Scientific name: 
Chilomycterus schoepfii

Habitat: Marine; reef-associated. Common in seagrass beds in bays and coastal lagoons. Also found on shallow coastal reefs. Mostly solitary.

Key characteristics for distinction: covered with short, sharp spines. Short round body. No spines wholly on caudal peduncle. Supraocular tentacles absent or much smaller than eyes. 5 to 7 large dark blotches on back and sides, with many, approximately parallel to obliquely intersecting dark lines distributed over light background color. Strong parrot-like beak.

Coloration: yellowish-green in color with dark wavy stripes. Large dark spots at base of dorsal fin and above and behind pectoral fins.

Feeding habits/specializations: invertebrates like barnacles and hermit crabs; uses powerful beak-like jaws to crush and consume prey; sometimes eats prey whole.

Reproduction: Believed to spawn offshore at night; little is known.

Maximum length (in inches or feet): 11 in

Predators: Fends off predators by puffing its body into a spiny ball.

Importance to humans: not commercial fished or sort after; often killed as by-catch in gill nets.

Conservation status: least concern

Fun facts: Burrfish are not very good swimmers. They move by squirting water out of their gill openings, which jets the fish forward.