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Unicorn sole

Scientific name: Aesopia cornuta

Distribution: This species has a wide distribution mainly in the tropics across the Indo-West Pacific: Red Sea, Mozambique, South Africa, India and Japan. Reported from Indonesia and northwestern Australia.

Description: It is greyish or brown in colour, with 15-16 dark bars edged with black across the body. The caudal fin is blackish with pale spots.

Ecology: This harmless species can be found on sand or mud bottoms to at least 100 m. Generally has a depth range of 100m and a maximum size of 25m.. They stay quite deep in winter and move to very shallow waters to spawn and feed in summer. Its diet consists of benthic, infauna, epifauna, euphausids and fish. Females can produce one to three million eggs. Spawning takes place in shallow waters. Females attain 50% maturity when they are about ten and half years old.

Interesting facts: The name 'sole' comes from its resemblance to a sandal, Latin solea. In other languages, it is named for the tongue, e.g. German Zunge, Spanish lenguado.

Status: The unicorn sole is a commercial species with a current low to moderate vulnerability. World stocks of large predatory fish and large ground fish such as sole and flounder were estimated in 2003 to be only about 10% of pre-industrial levels. According to the World Wildlife Fund in 2006, "of the nine sole stocks, seven are over fished with the status of the remaining two unknown".


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