Table of Contents
Members of the cunner family have a single long dorsal fin, its forward part spiny, its rear part soft rayed, with no evident demarkation between the two. The ventral fins are located under the pectorals, and the caudal peduncle is very deep. The structure of the dorsal fin is sufficient of itself to distinguish them from all Gulf of Maine fishes except the scup, sea bass, rosefish, tilefish, or certain sculpins. And there is no danger of confusing a cunner or tautog with any of these, for their rounded tails and pectorals, and their general body-forms separate them at a glance from the thin-bodied, fork-tailed scup; their small mouths and the relative sizes of their fins are obvious distinctions between them and the sea bass tribe; their smooth cheeks and broad caudal fins separate them from the spiny-headed, narrow-tailed rosefish or from any sculpin; and they do not in the least resemble the tilefish with its broad mouth, adipose "fin" on the nape of its neck, concave tail fin, and pointed pectorals. Both the roof of the mouth and the floor of the throat (pharynx) is armed with a patch of conical or knoblike teeth in the cunner tribe. It is with these that they grind the hard-shelled mollusks and crustaceans on which they feed.