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Shallow Sea Fishes

Updated on September 17, 2012

Many people don't remember or never learned that great empires have been founded on fish. It was cod, not gold, that drew some of our forefathers across the Atlantic.

Many of our important food fish are shallow water fish (primarily) and they include the flounders, soles, turbot, plaice and halibut. Some of them are quite interesting all by themselves.

The story of flatfishes, particularly turbot, really make you wonder about Mother Nature's grand designs and all the mysteries we still don't know the answers to. Here's one of them:

The Life Story of A Turbot Along With Pictures

When hatched from the egg and a day or two old it is like this, measuring only about an eigth of an inch. Art by Jerilee Wei.
When hatched from the egg and a day or two old it is like this, measuring only about an eigth of an inch. Art by Jerilee Wei. | Source

Interesting Flatfishes

The true flatfishes are, every one of them freaks. With over four hundred species, many of they have unique and interesting abilities in camouflaging themselves on the ocean floor.

They all begin like other fish, vertical swimmers with a left side and a right side, swimming as upright as herrings, with one eye on one side of the head and the second eye to balance on the opposite side.

Early in life these fishes begin to topple over. They flatten out, lying on one side, and the head becomes twisted so as to bring both eyes on the same side.

Sometimes one eye makes its way through the head. From that time forth the flatfish is a sluggish flopper. Its home is at the bottom of the water, and it moves only by undulating motions, no longer capable of the darting flight through the sea common to its children and nearly all other kinds of fish.

On the topside of the fish facing away from the ocean floor it is often difficult, due to coloring patterns the fishes' ability to even change their pigmentation to match their surroundings (in some species) -- to pick them out to the untrained eye.

One Of The Most Interesting Of Flatfishes Is The Turbot

Closely related to the flounders are the spiny turbots that eat smaller fishes. They often have well-developed teeth. Their life cycle is considered to be a prime example of evolutionary adaptation of a species.

They are found from the North Atlantic to the Black Sea, in the Baltic Sea, and even the Mediterranean Sea. They love the shallow waters of sandy shores and can reach thirty to forty pounds in weight.

There is another variety of them found in the very cold waters off Greenland. The Greenland Turbot (aka Blue Halibut) is another popular food source, particularly in the Scandinavian countries.

Today, Flat fish, like many other fish are farmed, particularly in Chile, China, France, Norway, Spain, and Turkey.

Even today scientists and marine biologists are fascinated with them. Recent discoveries of fossils (estimated to being over fifty-million years old) have uncovered a middle species of them between the older fossils and today's flatfishes that have answered some long held questions about them and raised some new ones.

Art by: Jerilee Wei
Art by: Jerilee Wei | Source

As it grows it changes shape, and when about three-fifths of an inch long it begins to develop spines on the head. These, however, disappear later.

Art by: Jerilee Wei
Art by: Jerilee Wei | Source

In the early stages of its life it is symmetrical in form, and both sides of its body are colored alike.

Art by: Jerilee Wei
Art by: Jerilee Wei | Source

 All this time it swims upright, with an eye on each side of the boyd, so as to see on both sides.

Art by: Jerilee Wei
Art by: Jerilee Wei | Source

Now an amazing thing happens. One of the eyes begins to travel around the head, as we see here.

Art by: Jerilee Wei
Art by: Jerilee Wei | Source

It changes its habits and instead of swimming upright it becomes a flat fish, lying on the bottom.

Art by: Jerilee Wei
Art by: Jerilee Wei | Source

At last the under eye has traveled around to the top side of the fish. The under-surface becomes white. Other flat fishes change their form and habits in the same remarkable way.


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    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks eonsaway! Yes they are part of my experiment years ago with art, a combo of bluing starch, water colors, and homemade ink on antique paper. Clearly I didn't know what I was doing as 15 years later they are falling to pieces so adding them in hubs (where relevant) at least gives me some comfort before I throw the orginals away.

    • eonsaway profile image


      8 years ago from New Mexico, USA

      Enjoyed,I really like the blue print {water-color type} identification pictures, did you do them?

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks barb2082! Fish watching is almost as good as fish catching and eating.

    • barb2082 profile image


      9 years ago from Amsterdam/Chicago

      The Oosterschelde in the Netherlands is also a very good place to spot flatfish. Be careful spot only don't catch, when you do you risk a substantial fine.

      Great hub!!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Vizey! Don't watch much tv but not above watching the discovery channel when I do.

    • Vizey profile image


      9 years ago

      nice hub i think you love discovery channel like me. just joking :)

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Mahfuza Urpa!

    • Mahfuza Urpa profile image

      Mahfuza Urpa 

      9 years ago from Bangladesh

      Excellent and informative hub. Thanks for sharing....Jerilee!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Am I dead, yet? I'm flattered by the many compliments as these hubs almost write themselves.

    • profile image

      Am I dead, yet? 

      9 years ago

      I agree with RNMSN, your hubs are definitely like a National Geographic! Always very informative, wonderful to marvel and the videos are well worth the view. Thanks Jerilee!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks RNMSN for the compliments! There are times when I miss the desert too, grew up out west and very familar with the scorpions and the whole ritual of shaking out your boots and bedcovers.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Az

      whew tons of info on the squirmy little whatevers that were tickling my feet when I lived in the gulf coast region! now I am in my heart home/sonoran desert/ so no worries about fshees just scorpionees :)

      very well researched hub as always Jerilee...they are ALWAYS Science Digest quality your know? why not try it?

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks livingsta! I find flatfish fascinating.

    • livingsta profile image


      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very informative hub Jerilee Wei..thanks a lot for sharing


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