Starry Flounder

by Anastasia E.

Starry flounders, in the family of Pleuronectidae, which means they are a righteye flounder. They got the name “Righteye” because unlike other fish who also have eyes that migrate to one side of their body, all the rest have their eye on the left side. These fish have their dorsal and anal fins that are long and continuous, with the dorsal fin extending forward onto their head. Found at the bottom of the ocean they eat little crustaceans and polychaetes that also live on the ocean floor. This family is found pretty much all over the world, with the starry founders are found all around the North Pacific.

Starry flounders are inshore fish, ranging up estuaries well into the freshwater zone (including Seattle’s Duwamish River), with their young found up to 120 km inland. In marine environments, they can be found as deep as 375 m. On the western side of the Pacific they occur as far south as Japan and Korea, ranging through the Aleutian Islands, including the coast of Alaska and Canada, and then down the West Coast of the U.S. as far as the mouth of the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbra, California. Because they are such a wide spread fish they happen an important game and fish food across their range.

In Port Townsend there is a Marine Science Center. Rebecca Mostow, the marine exhibit educator at the Science Center had a picky starry founder in one of her tanks. “The starry flounder wouldn’t eat. Over the preceding week, I’d tried nearly everything. He turned up his nose at krill, herring, clams, shrimp, and geoduck. If he didn’t eat soon, I was going to have to release him back into the wild. This starry flounder is about a foot long, with the sassy expression and bugged out eyes that only a flatfish can master. He’d only been in the exhibit for two weeks but I was already pretty attached to him,” Mostow wrote in her blog post. After her flounder wouldn’t eat she decided to go out and catch some grass shrimp, “caught a few small grass shrimp off some kelp. I dropped one into the tank — the flounder either didn’t see it or didn’t care. The next one I held carefully by the tail and inched closer to the mouth of my new friend. He was uninterested until the shrimp wiggled wildly. The flounder slid closer and then snapped up the shrimp! Success! ‘Good boy!’ I said. ‘Good fish!'”

Starry flounders glide over the bottom of the ocean by moving their dorsal and anal fins in sort of a rippling motion. They are feeding on a variety of benthic invertebrates. As larvae fish, they start out consuming planktonic algae and crustaceans then as they metamorphose they shift to larger prey including grass shrimp.

As Mostow is the marine exhibit educator AmeriCorps Member at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. She says that it is full of small puzzles just like the Flounder Dilemma. “Each one has to be tackled with care and speed because there are many different individuals from every imaginable phylum counting on me.” She says that this starry founder is vibrant and interesting ambassador of his species and getting him to eat proves just that.

“On an ideal day, I don’t teach people about the fish — the fish themselves are interesting enough to teach the visitors”.

Categories Science

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