Family: DACTYLOSCOPIDAE, Sand-Stargazers
Sand-stargazers are small fish (to ~ 15 cm), with elongate, tapering bodies; head usually broad and deep, with protruding, eyes on top, often stalked; mouth upturned, with a protruding lower jaw; mouth often bordered above &/or below by a fringe of skin flaps; operculum with a fringe of skin flaps; teeth minute, none on roof of mouth; tubular nostrils; gill opening large, usually overlapping under throat; upper part of operculum with a frill of finger-like "fimbriae"; dorsal fin with long base, continuous or divided with 1-5 separate spines at front, VII-XXIII, 12-36; anal fin with long base, II spines; pelvic fins inserted under throat, each with I, 3, rays thickened and free at the tips; scales large and smooth, none on head or, usually, on breast; lateral line bent, high on side of body at front, ends under end of tail base.
Sand-stargazers are "lie and wait" predators of small fishes and invertebrates. They can rapidly burrow into a sandy bottom and lie with only the eyes, snout, and mouth exposed. These fishes are seldom seen except by scientific collectors using chemicals.
Dactyloscopids occur only on the Pacific and Atlantic coast of the Americas, in tropical and warm temperate waters The family includes 44 species in nine genera, with 23 species (all endemics) in five genera (one endemic) in our region.