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Explorer's Guide
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The Explorer's Guide contains a treasure trove of aquatic science resources developed for use in K-12 classrooms. Back to Explorer's Guide.

Peacock Flounder Scientific Name: Bothus mancus
The peacock flounder changes its color and the pattern on its skin to exactly match the sea floor. One of the eyes recognizes the pattern of its surroundings. If this eye is covered by sand, the peacock flounder can’t camouflage itself. Each eye can move independently, seeing forward and back at the same time.

Region: Philippines

Peacock flounders are covered in spots. The dorsal or back side is trimmed in dark flower-like spots on the dorsal surface that have blue borders. Because of their spots, the peacock flounder is also called the flower flounder. This flounder can be 20 inches (50 cm) long.

The eyes stick up from just the dorsal side of the body and there is a wide space between them. One of the eyes is closer to the mouth than the other. The eyes are raised up on short stumps to give the peacock flounder a good view of its surroundings from the ocean floor. Each eye moves on its own, meaning each one can look in one direction while the other looks in the other direction. This not only helps the flounder watch out for predators, but it also helps the flounder look for a quick snack.

Like other animals, a baby flounder has an eye on each side of its face. But as the fish grows, one eye moves until both eyes sit together on the same side of its head. The mouth doesn’t move though, giving this fish a crooked-looking face. Flounders even swim upright like most other fish until they mature. Then flounders swim sideways, making it easier to lay flat on the bottom.

The side of the body that is left eyeless doesn’t ever get the coloration of the wildly patterned and colored topside. It is a uniform tan color.

In shallow waters, peacock flounders live on sandy bottoms of coastal coral reefs and lagoons. Sometimes, these fish take a break on smooth rocks. This flounder will even bury itself under the sand, leaving only its eyes sticking out from the sand. These flounders can be found to depths of 280 feet (84 m).

Peacock flounders live in the warm parts of the Pacific Ocean.

This fish hides by diving under the sand, leaving only its eyes uncovered to peer out. From its hiding place, a peacock flounder ambushes unsuspecting crabs, shrimp and small fish that pass by.

This flounder is diurnal or active during the day. At night, the peacock flounder blends in with its surroundings and rests.

These flounders swim close to shore in the late winter and early spring to breed. The females lay two to three million eggs each year. After the females lay the eggs, the males fertilize them. Flounders are pelagic spawners, which means they gather in groups in areas where the fertilized eggs will be taken by the currents. The eggs float in the epipelagic zone or the zone in the open ocean near the surface. The fertilized eggs float, but as the young develop, the eggs sink. It takes 15 days for the eggs to hatch. For the next four to six months, the larvae or the newly hatched fish float free in the pelagic or open ocean environment. The larvae may even float hundreds of miles from where they were laid. It’s during this time that the eye on the right side of the body begins to move so that both eyes settle on the left side.

>A species or group of organisms that is in danger of extinction or disappearing from the face of the earth in the near future if its situation is not improved.

A species that can be found throughout its natural range but is declining in number and may become endangered in the absence of special protection efforts.

A species that is not declining in number but is of special concern because it is sensitive to pressure by particular human activities or natural events.

A species that is not declining in number and is not sensitive to pressures by human activities or natural events.

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Threats and Management
Around the world, flounders are sought after for their meat. While the population of the peacock flounder is stable, the demand for their meat leaves the possibility that they may someday be in danger of being overfished.

Did You Know?
Flounders are separated into different Families depending on which side of the body the eyes are located as adults. The peacock flounder is classified as a lefteye flounder.

One of the flounder’s eyes focuses on the color and pattern of the ground. If this eye is covered, the flounder can’t modify its skin to match.

Splotches and stripes in brown, orange, yellow and red help peacock flounders hide among reefs, rubble and sandy flats. In a flash, they can even change their skin color and pattern to perfectly match different habitats. In tanks in the laboratory, scientists put flounders on a variety of striped, polka-dot and even checkerboard flooring. Quickly, the fish changed their skin to an exact match of each new surface.

Some flatfish ooze a toxic slime that discourages potential predators from taking a bite out of them.

Web Sites:
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Print Publications:
Debelius, H. 1999. Indian Ocean Reef Guide. Frankfurt, Germany: IKAN. 321p.
ISBN# 3-9317-0267-7.

Hoover, J.P. 1993. Hawaii’s Fishes. A Guide for Snorkelers, Divers and Aquarists. Honolulu, Hawaii: Mutual Publishing. 183p. ISBN# 1-56647-001-3.

Kuiter, R.H. 1998. Fishes of the Maldives. Australia: Atoll Editions. 256p.
ISBN# 1-876410-18-3.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. Barrigada, Guam: Coral Graphics. 216p.
ISBN# 0-9621564-4-2.

Perrine, D. 1997. Mysteries of the Sea. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Publications International, Ltd. 312p. ISBN# 0-7853-2430-5.

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Vocabulary Words

Diurnal – Active during the day.

Dorsal – The back of an animal. The large fin on the back of a shark; the fin that sticks out of the water when a shark swims near the surface.

Epipelagic zone – The zone of the open ocean near the surface.

Larvae – An animal that is newly hatched from an egg.

Overfishing – The excessive fishing or catching of aquatic (ocean or freshwater) animals to the point that the amount of animals being caught is greater than the amount of animals born. When more animals are caught than are being born, the aquatic environment is left depleted of the targeted animals.

Pelagic – In the open ocean.

Pelagic spawners – Fish that gather in an area in the ocean where the fertilized eggs will be taken away on the currents to drift into the open ocean.

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Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) Copyright Shedd, Edward G. Lines
Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) Copyright Shedd, Edward G. Lines

Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) Copyright Shedd, Edward G. Lines
Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) Copyright Shedd, Edward G. Lines

Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) Copyright Shedd, Edward G. Lines
Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) Copyright Shedd, Edward G. Lines

Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) Copyright Shedd, Edward G. Lines
Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) Copyright Shedd, Edward G. Lines

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