Flatfish | Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures

Flatfish | Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures

Flatfish Overview


Flatfish, such as flounders and halibuts, are distinctive for their flattened bodies and unique asymmetrical features. Their eyes are situated on one side, allowing them to camouflage on the ocean floor.

With a streamlined shape, they are adapted for life near the seabed, where they often lie partially buried. Their coloration and pattern match their surroundings, aiding in both hunting and avoiding predators.

Origins And Evolution

Flatfish have evolved over millions of years, adapting to their benthic lifestyles in ocean environments. They originated as more conventionally shaped fish, but through evolutionary pressures, their bodies gradually transformed into their unique flattened forms.

The migration of one eye to the opposite side of the head allowed them to lie on the seafloor, camouflaged and ready to ambush prey. Fossils show the gradual transition from ancestral fish to the asymmetrical flatfish we recognize today.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Flatfish are bottom-dwelling fish that spend much of their lives resting or moving along the ocean floor. With their flattened bodies and camouflage, they are masters of concealment, hiding from both predators and prey.

These fish are primarily ambush predators, lying partially buried in sand or mud, and swiftly lunging to catch passing prey. They often exhibit solitary behavior, using their camouflage and ambush tactics to survive in their benthic environments.

Flatfish Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Pleuronectiformes

Flatfish Locations

  • North America
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • South America
  • Africa

Fast Facts

  • Name: Flatfish
  • Scientific Name: Pleuronectidae
  • Habitat: Ocean floor
  • Diet: Small fish
  • Physical Features: Flattened body
  • Nocturnal: Nocturnal hunters
  • Solitary: Often solitary
  • Unique Order: Pleuronectiformes
  • Lifespan: Varies widely
  • Conservation Status: Species-specific
  • Fun Facts: Both eyes on one side

Physical Characteristics

  • Color: Camouflaged hues
  • Skin Type: Scales or skin
  • Top Speed: Moderate swimmers
  • Lifespan: Several years
  • Weight: Variable weight
  • Length: Distinctive shapes
  • Age of Sexual Maturity: Size-dependent
  • Age of Weaning: Larval stage

Flatfish FAQs

Why are flatfish flat?

They have evolved a flattened body shape to help them blend into the ocean floor and ambush their prey.

How do flatfish swim with one eye on the bottom?

Flatfish have one eye migrate during their development so both eyes are on one side. They swim on their side, using a wave-like motion, to navigate and hunt effectively.

What do flatfish eat?

They are carnivorous and feed on smaller fish and invertebrates found on the ocean floor.

Are both sides of a flatfish identical?

No, it has a distinct top side (eyed side) with both eyes and coloration, while the other side (blind side) is usually lighter and lacks eyes.

Are flatfish born flat?

No, this fish hatch with eyes on both sides of their body. As they grow, one eye migrates to the other side.


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