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The Triglidae, commonly known as sea robins or gurnard, are a family of bottom-feeding scorpaeniform fish. They get their name (sea robin) from the orange ventral surface of the species in the Western Atlantic (Prionotus carolinus) and from large pectoral fins, which, when swimming, open and close like a bird's wings in flight.

Sea robin
Helidonichthys spinosus.jpg
Red gurnard, Chelidonichthys spinosus
Scientific classification

A. Risso, 1826


A Spiny red gurnard swimming and also using its "foreleg" spines

They are bottom-dwelling fish, living down to 200 m (660 ft), although they can be found in much shallower water. Most species are around 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in) in length. They have an unusually solid skull, and many species also possess armored plates on their bodies. Another distinctive feature is the presence of a "drumming muscle" that makes sounds by beating against the swim bladder.[2] When caught, they make a croaking noise similar to a frog, which has given them the onomatopoeic name gurnard.[3]

Sea robins have six spiny "legs", three on each side. These legs are actually flexible spines that were once part of the pectoral fin. During development, the spines separate from the rest of the fin, developing into feeler-like "forelegs".[4] The pectoral fins can be used to walk on the sea floor as well as to explore the bottom in search of food.[5][6] The first three rays of the pectoral fins are membrane-free and used for chemoreception being highly sensitive to amino acids prevalent in marine invertebrates.[7][8]

As foodEdit

Gurnard have firm white flesh that holds together well in cooking, making them well-suited to soups and stews. They were often caught in British waters as a bycatch and discarded. However, as other species became less sustainable and more expensive, as of 2014, gurnards were becoming more popular in Britain,[9] and the wholesale price between 2007 and 2008 was reported to have increased from £0.25 per kg to £4.[10] Sea robins also are now appearing in fish markets in the U.S. One source says that gurnards are rather bony and lacking in flavour, and usually sold quite cheaply;[11] others praise its flavour and texture.[10]

The flesh of this fish is commonly used in the French dish bouillabaisse.


Sea robins can be caught by dropping a variety of baits and lures to the seafloor, where they actively feed. Mackerel is believed to be the most efficient bait for catching sea robins, but crabs, bunker and other fish meat can also be used successfully depending on location. Sea robins can also be caught by lure fishing if lured near the substrate. They are often considered to be rough fish, caught when fishing for more desirable fish such as striped bass or flounder.[12] Gurnard are also used as bait, for example by lobster fishermen.[10]


  1. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). "Triglidae" in FishBase. December 2012 version.
  2. ^ Eschmeyer, William N. (1998). Paxton, J.R.; Eschmeyer, W.N. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Fish. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 176–177. ISBN 0-12-547665-5.
  3. ^ "Gurnard". Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  4. ^ Kuntz, A., and L. Radcliffe (1918) Notes on the embryology and larval development of twelve teleostean fishes. Bull. U.S. Bur. Fish. 35(1915- 1916):87-134.
  5. ^ "Info" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Bernat Garrigós, SC1482. Video of Chelidonichthys lucerna" (Video).
  7. ^ Bardach, J. & Case, J. Sensory capabilities of the modified fins of squirrel hake (Urophycis chuss) and searobins (Prionotus carolinus and P. evolans). Copeia 1965, 194–206 (1965)
  8. ^ Silver, W. L. and T. E. Finger (1984). "Electrophysiological Examination of a Non-Olfactory, Non-Gustatory Chemosense in the Searobin, Prionotus-Carolinus." Journal of Comparative Physiology 154(2): 167-174.
  9. ^ "Gurnard recipes - BBC Food".
  10. ^ a b c "Ugly fish, tasty dish: chefs extol the sustainable virtues of the".
  11. ^ "Gurnard".
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-01-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit