Oyster toadfish

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Project Description

Oyster Toadfish

Opsanus tau

Range/Geographical Distribution: Western Atlantic from Massachusetts to the Florida.

Habitat: Sandy, rocky, and muddy bottoms, especially on oyster reefs.  Frequently found in litter and polluted waterways.

Description:  Brownish, blotched body with a large head.  Skin is scaleless and covered by a thick mucous. Two sharp spines on the gill covers used for defense. 

Size: Up to 15 inches in length.

Food: Omnivore; feeds worms, shrimp, amphipods, crabs, hermit crabs, mollusks, squid, and small fish.

Breeding: Males emit a loud foghorn-like call to attract a mate. Females lay their eggs in rock crevices, under submerged wood, and sometimes even in discarded tin cans. After fertilization, the male guards the nest and fans the eggs with his fins until they hatch, about one month later. The male continues guarding the young for three to four weeks after the eggs have hatched.

Predators:  Sharks. 

Conservation Status:  No legal status.

Interesting Facts:  NASA and the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole completed experiments in which toadfish were sent to space. The experiment was designed to help scientists better understand the effects of microgravity on our vestibular, or balance, system. The toadfish’s vestibular system is very similar to humans. 

On the Coast: Oyster toadfish are abundant within coastal Georgia’s many oyster reefs and estuaries although their cryptic coloration mostly keeps them hidden.

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