Speckled Sanddab       Citharichthys stigmaeus



Speckled Sanddabs are small, common flatfish growing to only 7 inches and 1 pound in size.  They are one of two local members of a major family of flatfish (Bothidae) whose eyes are found on the left side of the body.  All of the other flatfish generally have their eyes on the right side of the body (family Pleuronectidae).


This one inch transparent fish is a juvenile that was captured at a night lighting activity (Pier Peer) at the Boston Harbor Marina in December 2008.  It was very difficult to spot except for it's eyes as seen on the left in the photograph just above and behind the mouth.  At this stage, the unique distribution of black pigment cells around its body allow it to be identified to species.  The black spots can barely be seen near the tips of the dorsal and anal fins and near the head area.


After hatching in the summer it became a member of the plankton community for several months feeding on small crustaceans, small fish and worms. The eye on the right side of the body has just moved across the head to the other side of the body.  Soon it will develop an olive-brown or tan color on its left side and move to the bottom where it will spend its adult life laying on its white right side.  


The speckled sanddab ranges from southeastern Alaska to Baja California where it lives on sandy or sandy-mud bottoms from the intertidal zone to a depth of a 1000 Ft.  It is an opportunistic feeder taking any prey that is found on the sediment surface or just below it.  In turn it is fed upon by larger fish as well as both wading and diving birds.