Stargazer Family Photos and Information – Uranoscopidae

The Stargazer Family – Uranoscopidae

Two members of the Stargazer or Uranoscopidae Family found in Mexican waters, both in the Pacific, are currently presented in this website:

Pacific Stargazer, Astroscopus zephyreus.
Pacific Stargazer, Astroscopus zephyreus.
Kathetostoma avenrruncus.
Smooth Stargazer, Kathetostoma averruncus.

The Stargazer or Uranoscopidae Family, known as miracielos in Mexico, are medium-sized fish that reach up to 55 cm (22 inches) in length. There are 50 global members in the family which are divided in eight genera, with six members found in Mexican waters, four in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific.

The Stargazers have large robust bodies that taper toward the tail. They are generally dark brown in color with dark or pale spotting on their body. They have a large bulbous and flattened head, eyes on top of their head looking skyward, a large strongly oblique to vertical mouth, fringed lips, and wide gill openings. They have a large blunt or sharply pointed spine immediately above their pectoral fin base that contains a venom gland at its base. Their anal fin has no spines and 13 to 19 rays. Their dorsal fin has a long base with zero to five spines and 12 to 20 rays. They have a complete lateral line high on their body. They are covered with embedded scales.

The Stargazers are found globally in tropical and temperate seas in shallow coastal water environments and deep within the continental shelf. They are poorly studied and seldom seen by humans, therefore little is known about their behavioral patterns. They are solitary benthic individuals found submerged in the substrate (beaches, sand bottoms, and soft bottom habitats in mangroves and estuaries). They are ambush predators that lie in wait with only their eyes exposed and consume small invertebrates and small fish. Caution! Stargazers have a pair of large poisonous spines with a venom gland located immediately above their pectoral fin and behind their gill cover. This venom has been reported to cause death in humans and therefore this species should not be handled. Members of the genus Astroscopus have an electric organ that can deliver electrical shocks of up to 50 volts. From a conservation perspective they are currently considered of Least Concern. They are prone to habitat loss, including mangroves, from coastal development.