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Seaweek 2010: Oceans of Life - ours to explore; ours to restore

Creature Features



What do you think this flathead is up to? Is it hiding from other hunters? Is it waiting for a smaller fish to swim by so it can gobble it up? The flathead is doing a bit of both. There are five species of flathead in Port Phillip Bay.

Its eyes are on the top of the head. They are in the perfect position for a fish that remains on the bottom of the sea. The body is flat so it can sit on the bottom in the sand or mud. This flathead has wiggled itself so it is mostly burred in the sand. The fins are on the side of the flattened body where they are most useful for swimming. Flatheads have sharp spines in the gills or on the fin on the back. The spines are a nasty surprise for any hunter that does not know how to handle flatheads. But pelicans and herons are smart and know to eat flatheads, head first so the spines fold back.
When a smaller fish passes by, the flathead lunges forward. Their big wide mouth is used to catch a mouthful of food. It will swallow its food whole and let its stomach do the work.

Its scales and slimy surface helps to protect the skin underneath. The colour helps to camouflage the flathead at the bottom of the sea.

Many people think they taste rather yummy. They are a very popular fish at the shops and among fishers. The tiny bones are hard to pick out of the cooked flesh. Have you eaten flathead? Do you have a favourite fish?



A flathead, almost buried under sand

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