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Gurnards are very distinctive bottom-living fish with large heads and eyes. The head is protected by large bony plates and strong spines. The lower three rays of the pectoral fins are separate, finger-like processes that contain sensory organs. These are used by the gurnard to 'feel' for small fish, crustaceans and other invertebrates living in the sediment. The red gurnard has a stout body, large head and eyes and moderately large scales. It is one of the smallest of the European gurnards reaching a maximum length of 40 cm. The coloration is bright red with pinkish-silver mottling on the sides and head. The protective bony plates on the head which are characteristic of all gurnards are very conspicuous in this species. Along the lateral line there is a row of large, plate-like scales.

These fantastic fish are normally found on the sea floor at depths of around 660 ft. Instead of scales, they have special armored plates much like a sturgeon does. They also have a special set of ‘wings,’ which are actually just beautiful pectoral fins, that allow them to “fly” through the water and six spiny feet that allow them to walk across the ocean floor in search of food. These lower three rays of the pectoral fins are segmented, finger-like little legs that contain sensory organs. As it “walks” it’s sifting the sand in search of small crustaceans and other invertebrates that might be hiding in the sand.


To defend themselves, Red Gurnards have a set of sharp spines on their gill plates and dorsal fins that contain a mild poison. As if that wasn’t enough, these fish are known to make a croaking noise similar to a frog to fend off predators and to stay in communication with other Red Gurnards that may be nearby. They accomplish this sound by using their drumming muscle which beats against its swim bladder. I guess that’s why some people refer to it as the “walking talking” fish.


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