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.
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.