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There are two species of halibut, one from the North Atlantic and the other from the North Pacific. Halibut are large fish that can reach lengths of 13 feet (4 m) and weigh up to 700 pounds (317 kg).
The body of the halibut is long with powerful fins. They lie on the seabed on their left side with their eyes on the right side of the body. The color of the halibut is usually an olive brown, but they have the ability to change the color of the upper side of their body to match what they are lying on. Halibut eat crabs, mollusks, and worms, but their main diet consists of fish.
The mature halibut lives at depths of 1,200 feet (366 m) or more. Spawning for the Atlantic halibut takes place from May to June, and in winter for the Pacific halibut. The female lays over a million eggs at depths of 900 to 1,200 feet (274–366 m). The eggs float to the surface and hatch in a few days. The baby halibut looks like any other fish with their eyes on each side of their head. As they start to mature, the left eye moves toward the right eye and the halibut turns its body more and more on its left side. As these changes occur, the fish will slowly sink to the bottom to lie on its left side. On rare occasions, the right eye will shift to the left side and it will rest on its right side. The jaws of the halibut remain in their normal position.
The halibut is transparent until it rests on the sea floor. Then it turns a brown or black color on its upper side. The bottom side is light in color.
There are large losses to the young halibut by other fish, dolphins, seals, and other fish eaters. Halibut are fished commercially because of their excellent taste and large size. Along with being harvested for food, the oil of the halibut has been used in medicine.
Pleuronectiformes • Pleuronectidae
Hippoglossus hippoglossus (North Atlantic),
Hippoglossus stenolepsis (North Pacific)
Length: Up to 13 feet (4 m)
Weight: Up to 700 pounds (320 kg)
Life Span: 12 to 35 years
Special Design Feature: The eyes of the halibut are like most fish when they are hatched, but as they mature, the left eye migrates across the head to lie close to the right eye.
Did You Know? Halibut are able to change their color to match their background.