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July 12, 2013

Meet and greet: The European Flounder

BY: Peter Pierrou


Give us a kiss! --- © OCEANA / Carlos Suárez


During our most recent expedition in the Baltic Sea, we stumbled upon this guy along the coast of the Åland islands between Sweden and Finland. It’s a European flounder (Platichthys flesus), or Skrubbskädda, as we call them in Sweden.

The European flounder is a flat fish with an oval shape that prefers to spend its time on muddy sea beds, preying on mussels, starfish and small crayfish. To avoid its predators the European flounder relies its camouflage – buried in a sandy bottom it is very hard to spot due to the pattern on its upside. It can even partly change its color depending on the surroundings and blend in almost seamlessly. Another interesting detail about this fish is that it’s usually born with an eye on each side of its head, but as it grows older one eye migrates to the other side of its body. This makes its eyes face upwards and it helps it spot prey. But its most visible characteristic is of course, its awesome crooked mouth. It forms a shape that would be very useful for us humans so we could kiss each other without having to worry about our noses being in the way.

The flounder spawns in springtime, from January to June, and a single female can lay up to two million eggs. In recent years this fish has become an important commercial species in the Baltic Sea. Fishing for it however be carried out cautiously or to avoid a situation wherein the Baltic Sea is emptied of the European flounders and their crooked mouths.