Smooth Stargazer, Kathetostoma averruncus: The Smooth Stargazer is the one of seven global members of the Kathetostoma Genus, and the only one found in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. They have short, thick bodies that taper to the rear with large square heads with large eyes on top and large vertical mouths.
A key to identification is a pair of large venomous spines at the upper edge of the operculum (clearly visible in both photos below). The dorsal fin is without spines and the skin is without scales.
The Smooth Stargazer has a greenish-brown color above and is paler below with white dots on the head, eye-sized white spots and blotches on the body, dorsal fin, pectoral fins and tail and the anal, caudal and dorsal fins have white borders.
They reach a length of 12.5 inches and are normally found on the bottom half-submerged in sandy beach areas from 50 feet to 1,800 feet of the water column.
The Smooth Stargazer might be confused with the Pacific Stargazer, Astroscopus zephyreus (small eyes, no large white spots).
In Mexico, the Smooth Stargazer is found along the West Coast of the Baja, in the lower third of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.
Caution! The Smooth Stargazer has a pair of large poisonous spines and therefore should be handled with extreme caution.
The Smooth Stargazer is a member of the Uranoscopidae Family which are the stargazers and known in Mexico as miraestrellas. Stargazers are seldom seen by humans as they are “lie-in-wait” predators spending the majority of their time buried in sand with only the eyes, snout and mouths exposed, attacking small fish and invertebrates that come within range. Globally, there are fifty different known stargazers in eight genera.