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flatfish

flatfish, common name for any member of the unique and widespread order Pleuronectiformes containing over 500 species (including the flounder, halibut, plaice, sole, and turbot), 130 of which are American. Flatfishes are common in both the Atlantic and Pacific; many are important food and game fishes. All flatfishes have an unusual flattened body form well suited to life on the bottom. The development of the young flatfish recapitulates to some degree the probable evolutionary process. The newly hatched transparent larvae are bilaterally symmetrical, but soon the characteristic compression of the body develops and one eye "migrates" to the other side of the head—either the left or the right, depending on the species. Changes occur also in the skeletal and digestive systems; adults have only one dorsal and one anal fin, both without spines. The underside of the flatfish is pale and the top is colored to match the environment; some species, especially the flounders, are able to change their pigmentation. Flatfishes are divided into three groups: the soles, families Soleidae, Cynoglossidae, and Achiridae; and the flounders (including the halibuts and others), families Achiropsettidate, Bothidae, Citharidae, Paralichthyidae, Pleuronectidae, Samaridae, and Scophthalmidae, and the spiny turbots, family Psettodidae.

The Soles

The American soles, of which there are several Atlantic and one Pacific species, have small, close-set eyes and small, twisted mouths with few or no teeth. They prefer warm, shallow water with a sandy or muddy bottom and are generally too small and bony for food. The hogchoker, or broad sole, and the tonguefish, family Cynoglossidae, are most common. The European species Solea solea, a 2-ft (61-cm) flatfish found from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, is a valuable food fish, the source of filet of sole (in the United States filet of sole is usually flounder).

The Flounders

The flounders are much larger fishes, including the fluke (Paralichthys), the halibut (Hippoglossus), the dab (Limanda), and the plaice (Pleuronectes). The smooth flounder is found on muddy bottoms in cold, shallow northern waters. The winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) is an important food and game fish, taken in large numbers by trawlers. Like other flounders it migrates in winter to deeper waters to breed. It belongs to the righteye flounder family, Pleuronectidae. Similar is the summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), of the large-tooth flounder family, Paralyichthyidae, called fluke by fishermen, common from Maine to the Carolinas. The closely related California flounder, or California halibut (P. californicus), is prized sport fish found off California that weighs up to 50 lb (23 kg). The starry flounder, more brightly colored than its drab relatives, is a common Pacific species found from mid-California N to Alaska and W to Asia. Flounders feed on worms, crustaceans, and other small bottom invertebrates.

The European plaice is an important food fish, as is the American plaice. The American plaice is common at depths of from 20 to 100 fathoms on muddy or sandy bottoms, where it feeds on sea urchins, sand dollars, and other bottom life and grows to 30 in. (76.2 cm) and 14 lb (6.4 kg).

The halibuts are the largest flatfishes and are of great commercial importance. The Atlantic and the Pacific halibuts, Hippoglossus hippoglossus and H. stenolepis, respectively, are very similar, with large mouths and sharp, strong teeth. They feed voraciously on other fish and are found in colder waters. The maximum weight of a halibut is 600 lb (270 kg), but the usual specimens caught offshore at 100 to 400 fathoms weigh from 20 to 100 lb (9–45 kg); the male is generally much smaller than the female.

The commercially valuable tribe of European flatfishes called turbots is represented in American waters by a single species, Scophthalmus aquosus, commonly called the windowpane flounder, found on the Atlantic coast from Maine to the Carolinas. It is much smaller than its European cousins, rarely weighing over 2 lb (.9 kg), whereas the European turbots may reach 30 lb (13.5 kg).

Classification

Flatfishes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Pleuronectiformes.

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flatfish

flat·fish / ˈflatˌfish/ • n. (pl. same or -fishes) a flattened marine fish (order Pleuronectiformes) that swims on its side with both eyes on the upper side. They live typically on the seabed and are colored to resemble it. Its several families include Bothidae (left-eye flounders), Pleuronectidae (right-eye flounders), and Soleidae (soles).

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flatfish

flatfish Any of more than 500 species of bottom-dwelling, mainly marine fish found worldwide. Most have oval flattened bodies. Both eyes are on the upper side; the lower side is generally white. Examples include the halibut, plaice, turbot, and sole. Order Pleuronectiformes.

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flatfish

flatfish Fish with a flattened shape, including dab, flounder, halibut, plaice, sole, and turbot.

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flatfish

flatfish •raffish • damselfish •catfish, flatfish •garfish, starfish •redfish •elfish, selfish, shellfish •devilfish •crayfish, waifish •stiffish • kingfish • jellyfish •killifish • filefish • pipefish •white fish •offish, standoffish •codfish • dogfish • rockfish • crawfish •swordfish •blowfish, oafish •goldfish •bonefish, stonefish •wolfish •huffish, roughish, toughish •mudfish • monkfish • cuttlefish •lungfish • lumpfish • spearfish •angelfish • parrotfish • silverfish •haggish, waggish •vaguish •biggish, piggish, priggish, whiggish •doggish, hoggish •roguish, voguish •puggish, sluggish, thuggish •largish

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Flatfish

Flatfish

Resources

Flatfish are a group of mostly saltwater, carnivorous, bottom-dwelling fish in which both eyes are located the same side of the head. The under side of a flatfish is white while the upper side with the two eyes may be brightly colored. Many of these fish can change color to match their surroundings, making them hard to detect. When flatfish hatch, the eyes are located normally on each side of the head. However, when a young flatfish reaches a length of about 0.8 in (2 cm), one eye moves close to the other eye, and the mouth is twisted. Many species of flatfish, such as halibut, sole, and turbot, are popular food fish and are commercially valuable.

The flatfish family Pleuronectidae includes mainly right-sided species (i.e., both eyes are found on the right side of the head), although there are some left-sided species. The largest flatfish is the Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus ), which is found on the European and North American sides of the North Atlantic in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. The halibut is especially prolific north of Scotland and in the northern North Sea. This species may reach a length of about 7 ft (2.1 m) and a weight of 720 lb (325 kg). It is brown, dark green or blackish on the eyed side.

The Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis ) is somewhat smaller and slimmer than its Atlantic relative and is found on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. It is greenish brown and may reach a weight of about 440 lb (200 kg).

Some species of flatfish are considerably smaller. For example, the common or winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus ), found in shallow coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean from Georgia to Labrador, reaches about 1 ft (30 cm) long. The American plaice or rough dab (Hippoglossoides platessoides ) reaches a length of 2 ft (60 cm) and a weight of 4 lb (1.8 kg). This reddish or brownish fish is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to the cold waters of Europe. The larger European plaice

(Pleuronectes platessa ) reaches 3 ft (90 cm) in length and weighs about 20 lb (9 kg).

The more than 100 species of sole (family Soleidae) have a thin body with a downward curved mouth. Of all the flatfish, soles demonstrate the most efficient adaptation to a bottom-living environment. They possess small, paired fins, and the dorsal and anal fins are considerably extended. Unlike the flatfish in the family Pleuronectidae, soles prefer more southern waters, and some are found in the tropics. Soles are found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean extending northward to the North Sea. The most well-known species in this family is the European or Dover sole (Solea solea ). It may reach a weight of 3 lb (1.4 kg) and a length of 20 in (50 cm).

The lefteye flounders are classified in the family Bothidae. One species in this family, the summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus ), is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida. The southern flounder (P. lethstigma ) is found in the Gulf of Mexico. The turbot (Scophthalmus maximus ), another member of the family Bothidae, has a thick, diamond-shaped body, and may weigh more than 44 lb (20 kg). It is found in the Mediterranean and in the European side of the Atlantic Ocean to the southern part of the North Sea.

Resources

BOOKS

The Great Book of the Sea: A Complete Guide to Marine Life. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1993.

Migdalski, E.C., and G.S. Fichter. The Fresh and Salt Water Fishes of the World. New York: Greenwich House, 1994.

Nelson, Joseph S. Fishes of the World. 4th ed. New York: John Wiley Sons, 2006.

Whiteman, Kate. World Encyclopedia of Fish and Shellfish. New York: Lorenz Books, 2000.

Nathan Lavenda

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Flatfish

Flatfish

Flatfish are a group of mostly saltwater , carnivorous, bottom-dwelling fish in which both eyes are located the same side of the head. The under side of a flatfish is white while the upper side with the two eyes may be brightly colored. Many of these fish can change color to match their surroundings, making them hard to detect. When flatfish hatch, the eyes are located normally on each side of the head. However, when a young flatfish reaches a length of about 0.8 in (2 cm), one eye moves close to the other eye, and the mouth is twisted. Many species of flatfish, such as halibut, sole, and turbot, are popular food fish and are commercially valuable.

The flatfish family Pleuronectidae includes mainly right-sided species (i.e. both eyes are found on the right side of the head), although there are some left-sided species. The largest flatfish is the Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus), which is found on the European and North American sides of the North Atlantic in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. The halibut is especially prolific north of Scotland and in the northern North Sea. This species may reach a length of about 7 ft (2.1 m) and a weight of 720 lb (325 kg). It is brown, dark green or blackish on the eyed side.

The Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) is somewhat smaller and slimmer than its Atlantic relative and is found on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. It is greenish brown and may reach a weight of about 440 lb (200 kg).

Some species of flatfish are considerably smaller. For example, the common or winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus), found in shallow coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean from Georgia to Labrador, reaches about 1 ft (30 cm) long. The American plaice or rough dab (Hippoglossoides platessoides) reaches a length of 2 ft (60 cm) and a weight of 4 lb (1.8 kg). This reddish or brownish fish is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to the cold waters of Europe . The larger European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) reaches 3 ft (90 cm) in length and weighs about 20 lb (9 kg).


The more than 100 species of sole (family Soleidae) have a thin body with a downward curved mouth. Of all the flatfish, soles demonstrate the most efficient adaptation to a bottom-living environment. They possess small, paired fins, and the dorsal and anal fins are considerably extended. Unlike the flatfish in the family Pleuronectidae, soles prefer more southern waters, and some are found in the tropics. Soles are found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean extending northward to the North Sea. The most well-known species in this family is the European or Dover sole (Solea solea). It may reach a weight of 3 lb (1.4 kg) and a length of 20 in (50 cm).

The lefteye flounders are classified in the family Bothidae. One species in this family, the summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida. The southern flounder (P. lethstigma) is found in the Gulf of Mexico. The turbot (Scophthalmus maximus), another member of the family Bothidae, has a thick, diamond-shaped body, and may weigh more than 44 lb (20 kg). It is found in the Mediterranean and in the European side of the Atlantic Ocean to the southern part of the North Sea.


Resources

books

The Great Book of the Sea: A Complete Guide to Marine Life. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1993.

Migdalski, E.C., and G.S. Fichter. The Fresh and Salt Water Fishes of the World. New York: Greenwich House, 1994.

Whiteman, Kate. World Encyclopedia of Fish & Shellfish. New York: Lorenz Books, 2000.


Nathan Lavenda

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