Speckled Sanddab

Citharichthys stigmaeus

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Speckled Sanddabs are flattened, oval-shaped fish, with both eyes on the left side. They are closely related to other flatfish like halibut. When Sanddabs hatch, the little fish have an eye on both sides of their head and swim upright. As they grow larger, however, they begin to lean to the right until the eyes migrate to the left side of their bodies. They have short pectoral fins and a straight lateral line. Speckled Sanddabs are brown or tan with fine black spots on the eyed side and white on the blind side.

Young Sanddabs are nearly uniform gray and finely speckled with black on the eyed side, resembling the coloration of a sandy beach. This nature camouflage (and the upward looking eyes) helps protect the Sanddabs from winged predators like cormorants, gulls and herons. Sanddabs can be very difficult to see when resting partially or completely buried in sand, but they will dislodge themselves and quickly swim away before human beachcombers.

Range and Habitat

Speckled Sanddabs are common over sandy and muddy seafloors from southeastern Alaska to Baja California. They are found near shore to 1,200 feet (366 m) but usually live in shallower waters.

Conservation Status