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Fish #208 Topknot Zeugopterus punctatus ~ Sally Bonham
Watercolour and ink 30 x 42 cm
Zeugopterus: Greek, zygon = yoke + Greek, pteron = wing, fin.
Zeugopterus punctatus is a small left-sided flatfish that is almost completely round in shape, with a broad body relative to its length. It is a mottled brown and white colour, light wide fins all the way round its body and a very small tail. It is found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean including the North Sea, Baltic Sea, English Channel, Bay of Biscay, south to the coast of Portugal. Zeugopterus punctatus grows to a maximum length of about 25cm. The eyed side is covered in small ctenoid scales while the blind side has cycloid scales. The many small ctenoid scales feel downy to the touch.
This species lives along coastlines in the algae zone. It is unusual among European flatfish in that it prefers a rocky substrate, rather than the sandy ground that most flat fish prefer. It has the ability to remain immobile in the most surprising sites, holding on to vertical rocks or even upside down under overhangs, sometimes in extremely shallow water. This is achieved by using its broad fringing fins to fit itself into the substrate. Unlike most other flatfish, the Zeugopterus punctatus does not seem to change colour for camouflage but relies on immobility to avoid detection.
The Topknot is carnivorous, feeding on small fish, marine worms, shellfish and crustaceans in the algal zone. It is preyed on by other larger fish and seals and sea lions. It is named the common Topknot due to it being widespread and to differentiate between the other two, much rarer species of Topknot found in UK waters, the Norwegian Topknot and Bloch's Topknot.
I chose this particular fish due to its intriguing name 'The Topknot' and really wanted to know more... I wondered 'Topknot?'... 'Does this fish have a tiny traditional Japanese haircut?... or an aquatic knot of hair, similar to the married men of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea?'... 'Who knows!' was Google's answer...
However, seriously, having researched the fish I've found it to be a real wonder of nature's design and I immediately began to admire its tenacity, the way it can cling to its rocky substrate home with almost super strength but also the way it's often overlooked due to its ninja like camouflage abilities. The Topknot can literally stick upside down for extended periods of time, and I mean hours! Hiding and waiting. I admire patience. And the fact it is understated, downplayed, muted... just doing its thing. Getting on with it. In my opinion, Zeugopterus punctatus is an awesome example of nature's perfection, a fascinating fish indeed, a stealthy, spiny, flat marvel'
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