|Common stargazer, Kathetostoma laeve, from the Sketchbook of fishes by William Buelow Gould|
Jordan & Evermann, 1898
The stargazers are a family, Uranoscopidae, of perciform fish that have eyes on top of their heads (hence the name). The family includes about 51 species (one extinct) in eight genera, all marine and found worldwide in shallow saltwaters.
In addition to the top-mounted eyes, a stargazer also has a large, upward-facing mouth in a large head. Their usual habit is to bury themselves in sand, and leap upwards to ambush prey (benthic fish and invertebrates) that pass overhead. Some species have a worm-shaped lure growing out of the floors of their mouths, which they can wiggle to attract prey's attention. Both the dorsal and anal fins are relatively long; some lack dorsal spines. Lengths range from 18 up to 90 cm, for the giant stargazer Kathetostoma giganteum.
Stargazers are venomous; they have two large poison spines situated behind their opercles and above their pectoral fins. The species within the genera Astroscopus and Uranoscopus can also cause electric shocks. Astroscopus species have a single electric organ consisting of modified eye muscles, while Uranoscopus species have theirs derived from sonic muscles. They are some of the few marine bioelectrogenic bony fishes, the other being the striped catfish. These two genera within stargazers are out of eight total independent evolutions of bioelectrogenesis. They are also unique among electric fish in not possessing specialized electroreceptors.
Genera and species
- Genus Astroscopus
- Northern stargazer, A. guttatus Abbott, 1860
- Astroscopus sexspinosus (Steindachner, 1876)
- Southern stargazer, A. y-graecum (Cuvier, 1829)
- Astroscopus zephyreus Gilbert & Starks in Gilbert, 1897
- †Astroscopus countermani Carnevale, Godfrey & Pietsch, 2011 Extinct species described from the Tortonian deposits of Calvert Cliffs, Maryland.
- Genus Genyagnus
- Spotted stargazer, G. monopterygius (Schneider, 1801)
- Genus Gnathagnus
- Genus Ichthyscopus
- Genus Kathetostoma
- Lancer stargazer, K. albigutta (Bean, 1892)
- Smooth stargazer, K. averruncus Jordan & Bollman, 1890
- Banded stargazer, K. binigrasella Gomon & Roberts, 2011
- Kathetostoma canaster Gomon & Last, 1987
- Spiny stargazer, K. cubana Barbour, 1941
- Kathetostoma fluviatilis Hutton, 1872
- Giant stargazer, K. giganteum Haast, 1873
- Common stargazer, K. laeve (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
- Deepwater stargazer, K. nigrofasciatum Waite & McCulloch, 1915
- Genus Pleuroscopus
- Genus Selenoscopus
- Genus Uranoscopus
- Genus Xenocephalus
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2006). "Uranoscopidae" in FishBase. May 2006 version.
- Gomon, M.F. & Roberts, C.D. (2011). "A second New Zealand species of the stargazer genus Kathetostoma (Trachinoidei: Uranoscopidae)." Zootaxa 2776: 1-12.
- Alves-Gomes, J.A. (2001). "The evolution of electroreception and bioelectrogenesis in teleost fish: a phylogenetic perspective". Journal of Fish Biology 58 (6): 1489–1511. doi:10.1006/jfbi.2001.1625.
- Baron, V. (2009-12-01). "Electric discharges of two species of stargazers from the South China Sea (Uranoscopidae, Perciformes)". Journal of Ichthyology 49 (11): 1065–1072. doi:10.1134/S0032945209110058.
- Alves-Gomes, J. A. (2001). "The evolution of electroreception and bioelectrogenesis in teleost fish: a phylogenetic perspective". Journal of Fish Biology 58 (6): 1489–1511. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2001.tb02307.x.
- Carnevale, Godfrey & Pietsch, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31(6):1200-1209. 2011 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/039.031.0608 "Stargazer (Teleostei, Uranoscopidae) Cranial Remains from the Miocene Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, U.S.A. (St. Marys Formation, Chesapeake Group)" 
|Stargazer lunges from sand – YouTube|
|Little Red Cardinalfish gets eaten by hidden Stargazer! – YouTube|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Uranoscopidae.|