Other Phyla


British Marine Life Study Society

Common Name(s):
Topknot, Rock Sole
Scientific Name:
Zeugopterus punctatus
Usual Size:

                        Photograph by Ron Barrett

Similar species:
Additional Notes:

A commensal worm sometimes occupies the gills.

Zeugopterus punctatus
Photographs by Owain Gabb

Photographed at Sedgers Bank, Gower, south Wales, by Owain Gabb in April 2012
Unusually for a flat fish, this species favours rocky coasts where it is well adapted to clinging onto rocks with its broad fringing fins.

Gower Wildlife Blog (by Barry Stewart)

Information wanted: Please send any records of this fish, with location, date, who discovered it, how it was identified, prevalence, common name and any other details to 
Shorewatch Project 
All messages will receive a reply. 

Shorewatch Project
Report  Forms



20 August 2010
I found a dead Topknot on the shore outside my house. The fish looked quite fresh and had no obvious signs of how it died. It was approximately six inches long. I live on the island of Hoy in Orkney, in the parish of Crockness. I am an angler with 47 years experience. The dead fish was thrown into the sea and I did not take any further details as I did not know about your survey. Last November 2009 a number of Ray's Bream, Brama brama, were washed up along the same stretch of shoreline.

21 January 2007
Whilst looking for Ormers, Haliotis tuberculata, at low tide in Braye Harbour, Alderney, I found two specimens of Topknot, Zeugopterus punctatus. Both were clinging to the underside of boulders in less than 25 cm of water. The first was around 175 mm in length and remained clinging to the boulder even though it was clear of the water. I removed it from the boulder before rolling the stone back to its original position to avoid crushing the fish. In the hand it curled up as though trying to stick itself to something but made no vigorous attempts to escape. I released it next to the boulder it had come from and it quickly swam back underneath.
The second fish was smaller, around 100 mm and flipped off the stone as it was turned and remained nearby in the open. After returning the stone to its original position, this fish also returned to underneath the same stone. The only other time I have encountered a Topknot was a specimen of around 200-250 mm in length that I found whilst diving. It was clinging to the side of a rock on the breakwater mound in about 9 metres of water.

Report by Bill Walden (Alderney)
21 August 2006

Topknot (Photograph by Bob Kell)

While shore fishing from Pittenweem breakwater on the east coast of Fife in Scotland on Monday, I caught a smallish flatfish which I think I have identified as a Topknot.

 Report and Photographs by Bob Kell
The commensal worm can be seen venturing out from the gills. 

Topknot (Photograph by Bob Kell)

Hannafore Point, Looe
Found an adult of this fish (20+cm) in a pool at Hannafore Point, West Looe, yesterday. This is the first specimen of this size that I have seen (they are more usually found at 4-5cm).

Despite being prodded and poked, caught and netted out of the water, the fish, when returned, swam around but refused to leave the area where it was caught. Is it likely that it was guarding eggs? I no nothing of this species' biology but it preferred being caught than swimming away. It would have made a lovely aquarium specimen but I let it be in case it was nurturing a brood.

One was found on a Socite Jersiaise walk on Fliquet beach, NE Jersey in 1999, under a rock surrounding by water just above the LW mark it was a very large specimen about 340 grams (12 oz) in weight, it was eventually returned to the sea and appeared very relaxed. I had only seen very small fish previously in local waters.
Nicolas Jouault

I have received reports of flatfish under rocks intertidally off Cornwall, especially Looe (in the Big Pool) which from their behaviour of clinging to the underside of the rocks, I thought was the Topknot, Zeugopterus punctatus, from over a decade ago.

I have not subsequently received any other reports, and as time lapsed I was apt to put these reports to the back of my mind. This was further emphasised by aquarium study that found that this fish was intolerant of high temperatures. However, I have measured the temperature in the large Devon and Cornish pools and many of the large ones fail to exceed 20° C despite the low spring tides occurring in the middle of the day. 

Topknots are not found intertidally on Sussex shores, although they are found in deeper water. 

Andy Horton

17 August 2001
As requested, whilst diving, we encountered a Topknot of approx 25 - 30 cm (10-12 inches) in length in around 6 metres of water, 50 metres from the north tip of St. Mary's Lighthouse, Northumberland. The fish was sitting in the open, unprotected, on a rock. 
While Terry was trying to photograph it, it disappeared under a large rock, as we could see right through the gap under the rock, neither of us could understand how we couldn't still see it, but I've since read about their ability to cling onto the underside of rocks so I guess it must have been hiding there. 

Lindsay Stutchbury & Terry Grice. 
Fish Page

 Hi Guys

I caught a Topknot whilst fishing the inner harbour from the Breakwater at
Dover (Friday May 3rd 2002). It was a sunny bright day, with a cool North Eastly of around Force 4. Having not even heard of the species before, and sure that my mates were pulling my leg over its name, I looked it up on the WEB and found your request for info on the British Marine Life Study Society
Site. Not too sure what data you are after exactly, so here's what information I have, plus the usual fishermans photo of yours truly grinning with the fish ... sorry ;-)

It was caught on the bottom hook (Size 2) of what's known as a Wessex Rig. The flowing trace in this case being about 3 ft long, with a final hook length of about 10 inches. Sorry I haven't gone metric yet ! It fell to a whole freshly peeled peeler crab which was about half the size of a credit card. A small whiting (about 4 oz) was caught at the same time from the top
hook, which was also baited with a similar sized crab on a size 2 hook. Therefore, although the bite seemed to suggest that a flattie had taken the bait, it is impossible to say which fish actually registered the bite on my rod.

Strong currents run along the Breakwater which is a about a mile out to sea. As the tide comes in, so the current runs strongly West, then there is a very short slack period (20 minutes or so) before it reverses and runs East for a short time (30 - 45 minutes). It then seems to realise that it is going in the wrong direction and so goes slack, as if checking its compass for around 20 minutes, before heading off like a steam engine directly back West again. It continues going West until high tide, when another slack period of around an hour or so is experienced. The currents on the inner side of the seawall where I caught the Topknot, follow this same pattern but are not quite as strong as those experienced when fishing the outer seawall. The fish was caught during the 'compass checking' slack period which occurred about an hour before high tide.

The Topknot was weighed on the club scales and came to exactly 8 ozs. It was identified as a Topknot by the steward of the Dover Sea Angling Club who said that one or two got caught from the Breakwater every year. In fact he made specific mention of one caught just a few weeks ago that he thought was about 3 times the size of my fish. After weighing the fish was returned to the water, where it arched its back and headed in a steep swift dive for the bottom.

Trust that some of this stuff is useful to you !
Gary Beard

September 2002
A fishy Tale,
The flatfish, Topknot is a dark brown colour and tends to live in rocky areas rather than on sand and when diving on a reef in Mounts Bay we often disturbed them on the bottom and they would sometimes flick up onto a vertical surface and stick there by suction. We also used to find them stuck to the rocks in vertical cracks. When our Club Diving Officer disturbed one recently the fish flicked up and stuck itself to his drysuit. 


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