Brown fish: Why are some fish in the Gulf of Maine brown?

Monday, October 15, 2012 by Caroline Casals

The Gulf of Maine is full of fish that are brown on top, with white or light colored bellies.

These fish all live in the ocean, but last we checked the ocean wasn’t brown, so what is going on!  If we look at some brown fish that live in the Gulf of Maine we can start to see a pattern… can you see it?  What do all these fish have in common? 

Thorny SkateMonk fish
Witch Flounder


They’re flat!  Where do you think a flat fish might live?  If you thought “on the bottom!” you were right, these fish are all ground fish or benthic fish.  The ocean might be blue, but the bottom of it is brown!  Just like the deer, these fish blend in to their habitat well.

Skate blending in

Are there any brown animals that live near you?  Are they always blending in to an all brown environment? **Bonus** Take a look at the flounder below, notice how she can change her colors to match her environment! If you go fishing and catch a flounder in one spot and it is light colored, and another spot and it is dark brown, what evidence does that give you about the habitat you caught the fish in? Let us know in the comments below!

Checkerboard flounder

(Note, checkerboards are probably not native habitat.  We think.  The ocean is a big place, we could be wrong.)

Learn more about silver fishred fish, or go back to the start.

Photo credits:

Splash image: Mark Dixon - NOAA.  All others top to bottom, left to right: NOAA (top two), DFO Canada, NOAA, Chicago Field Museum.

comments powered by Disqus