Sea Robin – The Walking Fish


This Fish Is Named After a Bird and Walks Like a Bug.

The sea robin (scientific name Triglidae) is named after the bright-crimson chest of the popular American bird.  Sea robins don’t quite have feathers, they don’t sing and they don’t eat earthworms.

But they do walk — which, when you think about it, is another characteristic atypical of birds.

Photo credit: Flickr Haus  Stietel.
Photo credit: Flickr Haus Stietel.

Deep down at the absolute, benthic bottom of the ocean, there lives a bird that loves to go on walks. OK, well, it’s not quite a bird. But it is named after one. Meet the sea robin: a deep-sea fish.

But it’s precisely this walk that makes the sea robin so distinctly weird, according to Live Science. The fish has bony, stiff fin rays that extrude from the bottom of its body. And instead of keeping those rays closed in, the sea robin flaunts them all the time and actually uses them as spindly little legs in order to trot along the seafloor.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Okeanos Explorer recently captured thrilling footage of this strange sort of stroll, right by the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument.

The sea robin can be spotted moseying along little pebbles and rocks, moving with no particular haste — or any kind of consciousness that it is, indeed, a fish, not a bird or the bug-like critter it can sometimes resemble.

Here’s another view of the sea robin walking. From such a zoomed perspective, it really looks like a chimera of a lionfish, dragonfly and centipede.

sea robin 2

A Fish Adapted for Survival

The Sea Robin lives in warm ocean coastal waters all around the globe. Being a warm water fishes means that, like other fish of this kind, Sea Robins disappear from the coast in the month of October to wait out the cold season and leave in the offshore. In my opinion, this makes them incredibly intelligent.

They live most of their lives on bottom ocean floors, where they search for small prey with the help of their independent feelers, the lower rays of each of its pectoral fins. When they swim, they use their pectoral fins in the same manner a bird uses its wings to fly, making the Sea Robin a really exotic and unique presence in the ocean waters. In addition, they use this pair of fins to raise the dust and blur the bottom of the ocean in order to catch small crustaceans and fish hidden in the crevices of the ocean floor (I told you they were smart).

Another interesting feature of this odd looking fish is its armored plates that cover their head and parts of their body. They don’t need this armour to protect themselves from predators but instead use it to handle the incredible gravitational pressure that exists 200 m (656 feet) below the surface of the ocean. where this amazing fish lives.

Video dSea Robin Walking at Blue Heron Bridge by Doug Barkley

Sea Robins, a Fish Only a Mother Could Love

Some say that Sea Robins are the result of mixing a fish with a frog, a bird and an insect – which makes sense if you look at them closely. They kind of remind me of the Platypus – a mixture of all different animals. To add to their uniqueness, the three lateral feelers they have on each side has turned this species into a total oddity, a fish that both walks, crawls and swims at the same time. How cool is that?

Besides, their large heads and huge mouth which makes them look like an angry mafia mob who is in for a fresh kill. Yes, they look hideous and ferocious with their gray muddy colors but this is nature’s way of adapting to the environment in order to survive. You know, they say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and this is what we should do when it comes to Sea Robins, because they have some astonishing adaptations and have done a great job living in a tough environment.  So, let’s give Sea Robins another chance and appreciate the intelligent and unique way in which they’ve learned to survive and thrive at the bottom of our planet’s ocean floors.


a member of the Triglidae family of fish, many of which often are called gurnards because of the grunting sound they make. While some sea robins have been reported to reach as much as 3 feet in length, most of them range from about 12 to 18 inches long.

  • Sea Robin is also known as Gurnard, due to the fact that when caught, they use a special muscle that hits against the swim bladder and makes a distinctive frog-like sound, like grunting.
  • This amazing fish is part of the Scorpaeniformes family of carnivorous fish which feed on crustaceans and smaller fish, but also on shrimps, crabs and other small amphipods.
  • Another good to know fact is that Sea Robins have sharp spines on their dorsal fins and gill plates that inject a mild poison, causing a little bit of pain that passes in a day or two, so watch out.



The sea robin is an elongated fish with a rounded front end and a long, tapering tail section. A series of bony plates covers their head, offering them some protection from predators. The upper portion of the sea robin can range from medium gray to reddish-brown, while its underside is quite pale by comparison. The dorsal fin is triangular and generally darker than the body; the fins on the fish’s underside are much lighter. It has oversized pectoral fins that somewhat resemble wings, giving rise to the nickname sea robin, and it has bright blue eyes.


These fish live in tropical seas throughout the world and are particularly common in the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia down to Florida. They typically inhabit shallow coastal waters but are sometimes found swimming freely in the open ocean or diving down to depths of more than 200 feet. Sea robins favor open areas of the ocean floor where the bottom is sandy or covered with small rocks. They breed during the summer months and mature adults typically remain in water that is 71 degrees or higher throughout July, August and September, to allow their eggs to hatch.


Sea robins are good swimmers but they also can use their pectoral fins to “walk” along the bottom of the ocean, looking for prey. The sensitive fins let the fish feel things they encounter and they can be used to move and manipulate small objects. It also uses its head as a shovel to dig down and uncover small sea creatures to eat. Sea robins will eat just about anything they can find, including segmented worms, crustaceans, shrimp, squid and mollusks.

General Facts

Sea robins vibrate their swim bladders to make a croaking sound that is easy to hear when the fish are lifted out of the water. They head for the bottom and quickly burrow into the sand when threatened, leaving only their eyes and a bit of their heads exposed. When hooked, the sea robin is a strong fighter providing fisherman with a good battle. Even though the fish is edible, it’s often considered more of a nuisance than anything because of the many bony plates covering parts of it.

Sources: Azula / Sabrina Imbler,, Wild Facts

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March 31, 2017 |

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