Sea Robin

juvenile sea robin in someone's hands
Juvenile Sea Robin (Prionotus carolinus). Credit: Flickr user Kevin Faccenda via CC license

The northern sea robin (Prionotus carolinus) is named for its expanded pectoral fins that resemble bird wings. The first three fin rays separate from these wings during early sea robin development and can be used as “legs” to walk along the ocean floor. These “legs” have sensory capabilities that allow the fish to find food.

Sea robins have a distinctive “drumming muscle” that makes sounds by beating against its swim bladder. They often produce an audible croak like a frog when held out of water—this is where their other common name (the gurnard) comes from.

Scientific Name: Prionotus carolinus

Type: Bony Fish
Sandy ocean floors
Range: The Western Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to central Florida and the Gulf of Mexico
Size: about 17 inches long
Diet: Mollusks, crustaceans, and other bottom-dwelling prey
Status: Species of Least Concern

Remote video URL
Credit: Marine Biological Laboratory / BioQuest Studios / Nguyen Khoi Nguyen
Sea Robins and the MBL

Resident and visiting researchers at the MBL study sea robin “legs” to better understand how new limbs form during development and how novel forms of locomotion evolve in vertebrates.

Learn more about the New Research Organism Initiative at the MBL