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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 12, 2021

Grey Gurnard: 21 Facts You Won't Believe!

Grey gurnard facts are sure to surprise you.

The grey gurnard (Eutrigla gurnardus), a small species of gurnard or sea robin, is commonly present in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea around the UK. The habitat range of this species also spans the Baltic, Mediterranean, and Black Sea. The family Triglidae is the group of all nine genera of gurnard species. Gurnards are also called sea robins due to their large pectoral fins that look like robin's wings. These emphasized pectoral fins are especially apparent in the red gurnard and the blackfin sea robin. The grey gurnard (Eutrigla gurnardus) has shorter pectoral fins than the pectoral fins of its cousins, and they only reach the origin point of the anal fin. Grey gurnards also have two dorsal fins, with the first dorsal fin having around 10 spines and the second dorsal fin has double that number of rays. Rays refer to bony or soft spines that may be present on a fish's body and this particular species has bony spines. The deep occipital groove on its skull gives the grey gurnard a worried and perplexed look at all times.

They are famous for having the ability to produce sounds, They are able to produce a variety of sounds using contractions of special sonic muscles on their air bladder. The Eutrigla gurnardus (grey gurnard) is a common by-catch of marine fisheries that operate in its habitat range and can be easily caught in amateur fishing as this fish inhabits waters near the shore at depths of just 460 ft (140 m). Like other gurnard species, its meat is commonly eaten and its most popular dish is the bouillabaisse. As its name suggests, the grey gurnard is grayish-brown or black in color and has a straight lateral line of small white spots across its body which has thorny scales along with it. Its underbelly is pale and white. Its head also shows the same gradient color scheme of gray-brown or black to white as the body. They are a predatory species and mainly feed on sand eels, crabs, shrimps, and other small fishes, mostly gobies and young herring. Their spawning season lasts the entire summer, meaning they are most often caught in the winter.

If you enjoy this article on the grey gurnard, make sure to check out our facts pages on the stonefish and the anglerfish.

Grey Gurnard Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a grey gurnard?

The Eutrigla gurnardus (grey gurnard) is a type of fish.

What class of animal does a grey gurnard belong to?

The grey gurnard fish species is classified as Actinopterygii, which is the biological class of all fish species.

How many grey gurnards are there in the world?

While the exact population of the grey gurnard fish species in the world is not known, they are considered to be largely abundant within their habitat range and are an easy and often undesirable summer catch for marine fisheries.

Where does a grey gurnard live?

These fish are found in the North, Baltic, Black, Mediterranean Seas, and the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It cannot be said that this fish is endemic to the eastern Atlantic Ocean but it is found in abundance there.

What is a grey gurnard's habitat?

The grey gurnard is a bottom-feeder fish and lives in waters right next to the shore in waters 460 ft (140 m) deep. They are almost exclusively found in seawater but are known to be able to tolerate brackish waters too.

Who does grey gurnard live with?

Grey gurnard fish live in schools and shoals of around 15-20 individuals. However, like most other predatory fish, they venture out to hunt near the shore alone so they do not have to compete with fish from the same species for food.

How long does a grey gurnard live?

The oldest specimens of grey gurnards caught and studied were nine years old, and this is considered to be its lifespan. This number is considerably lower than other sea robin fish, some of which may live for almost twice as long.

How do they reproduce?

Like other species of fishes, the grey gurnard reproduces sexually. Breeding season is in the summer months of April to August every year which is when females develop fatty tissue around their pelvic muscle near the dorsal fin. Both copulation with the male and, consequently, fertilization occurs here. Once the eggs are ready to leave the mother's womb, she lays them in a safe place near where she lives. The unviable eggs attach themselves to the viable ones. Species of fishes that do not lay a lot of eggs at one go prefer this method of parental care due to the increased chances of their offspring reaching adulthood.

What is their conservation status?

According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the grey gurnard is a species of Least Concern, meaning it is abundant in the sea.

Grey Gurnard Fun Facts

What do grey gurnards look like?

Grey gurnards have a gray-brown to nearly black top half of their body, which eventually fades out into a shiny white or silver on their underbelly. The fish's head also features the same color scheme. Their pectoral fins are smaller than other fish in the family. They have a pair of dorsal fins, the first one with around 10 rays and a large black mark, and the second with around 20 rays. They also have three small feelers that they use to feel the surface of the sea for possible food. These may look like legs when looking at them straight-on. A white lateral line that has thorny scales runs across their body.  

This fish's spiky pectoral fins give it the impression of having a hairstyle that only warrants the description wacky.
*  Please note that this is an image of a flying gurnard, another gurnard fish species. If you have an image of a grey gurnard please let us know at [email protected].

How cute are they?

While grey gurnards do not have the most dazzling of colorations like an angelfish or an oscar fish, they do have a certain subtle charm to them that can make them fun to admire for long periods of time.  

How do they communicate?

The grey gurnard is one of the few species of fish capable of producing sound. They use this to communicate their mood and social status to other faraway fish. When caught, they produce a toad-like croaking noise which is the root of its onomatopoeic name, gurnard.

How big is a grey gurnard?

The average adult grey gurnard grows to around 12 in (30.5 cm) in length, meaning they are 10 times the size of a pupfish and more than double the size of an Altum angelfish.

How fast can a grey gurnard swim?

These small fish are capable of hitting speeds of around 6 mph (10 kph). This is helpful for scuttling away from larger, slower deep-water predators.

How much does a grey gurnard weigh?

The average adult grey gurnard weighs between 0.7-3 lb (0.3-1.4 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Both males and females of this species can be referred to as grey gurnards.

What would you call a baby grey gurnard?

Baby fish are called fry or fingerlings, so the babies of this species are called grey gurnard fry or grey gurnard fingerlings.

What do they eat?

They are aggressive seabed predators that feed mostly on crustaceans like crabs and shrimp, alongside smaller fishes, mostly gobies, herring, and the young of any species. They also get into thrilling battles with sand eels, ending in one eating the other.

Are they dangerous?

No, not really. If you are out fishing and come across a grey gurnard, it does not pose any special threats apart from the spiny fins that it has. Unless you actively try and poke your finger against one, it will not break the skin. As with other types of fish, never offer your finger to its mouth.

Would they make a good pet?

They are considered as game fish and can be eaten and they would make as good a pet as any other fish. They would have to be fed good meaty fare like Mysis shrimp and frozen vertebrates to keep them satisfied and prevent them from seeing any other smaller fish in the tank as food.

Did you know...

Mackerels are considered to be the most effective bait when attempting to catch any species of sea robin. Sea robins themselves can also be used as fishing bait when trying to catch large lobsters, octopuses, and catfish.

Are the spines of grey gurnards poisonous?

Very rarely, certain individuals of the gurnard family may have poisonous toxins embedded in their spines. This has never been reported with a grey gurnard, but it is best to take the usual precautions for any other bony fish.

Where does gurnard fish come from?

Gurnards became a separate family of fish around 10 million years ago due to the development of large pectoral fins. There are now over 20 species of gurnards found across the world.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our giant grouper facts and French angelfish facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Grey gurnard coloring pages.

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