Latin name

Opsanus tau

Other names

Opsanus tau


It is an unusually shaped fish with a large head. The skin is scaleless, covered with a thick mucous membrane and sometimes with warts. It has a tapering body with a thick belly and a large, flat head that merges into a thin tail. It has a rounded nose and a large mouth with large, blunt teeth. Thick, fleshy skin surrounds the lips and eyes. The gill covers have 2 sharp spines which the fish uses for defence. 

Features of fish fins

The pelvic fins are fan-shaped and are located below the throat in front of the gill openings. 

Fish colouring

They are usually yellowish with a pattern of brown diagonal stripes. 


Occurs in the western Atlantic Ocean from the Cape Cod Peninsula to Florida.


Marine, brackish, reef-associated, subtropical species. Depth range 0-5 m. They live on muddy or sandy bottoms, sometimes burrowing up to their eyes.


Maximum length 43.2 cm, mass up to 2.2 kg. Life expectancy up to 24 years.


A solitary fish. Capable of producing sounds that have the character of scraping, hoarse grunting or humming. The sounds are made to warn that a particular area of the bottom is occupied. In the immediate vicinity of the fish, these buzzes can sometimes be over 100 decibels, reaching an intensity that can be deafening.

Food and feeding habits

Hunts small fish, crabs, molluscs, worms, standing still, waiting for prey.


Oystercatchers spawn in coastal estuaries from May to August, with some variation depending on latitude. Males dig a nest under rocks or other debris and begin to make advertisement calls. Females are attracted to these calls. Females choose a mate, enter the nest, lay eggs and then leave. Females do not provide parental care for their young. Males fertilise the eggs, then protect and clean the nest while the embryos develop. The embryos are large.

After about 4 weeks, the fry hatch from the eggs. At first the fry remain attached to the yolk. As the yolk is digested for energy, the fry learn to swim. Even when the fry begin to swim, the adult will still protect its young.


Not sought after by fishermen.

Relationship with a person

It has poisonous spines and is a danger to swimmers. The flesh of this fish is flaky and has a sweet flavour. It is used in public aquaria.

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Batrachoidiformes
Family Batrachoididae
Genus Opsanus
Species O. tau
Conservation status Least Concern
Habitat Bottom
Life span, years 24
Maximum body weight, kg 2,2
Maximum length, cm 43,2
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people Edible
Way of eating Predator

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Oyster toadfish

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