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I saw it in the sea very close to the beach in front of Starfish Hotel in St Lucia. It had some spines along its back and it seemingly had fins on each side that split open into 4. It used its front two fins to dig through the sand. It had white spots, and the main colour of it was very dark brown - black. The fins on the fish were very thin and flimsy-looking. From tail to head was probably around a foot long, and the end of one fin to another was around 15-20 cm. Here is a link to a video I took seeing as the picture may not be clear enough- https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PzjgzAaK6B51jg9HHNO4SQyorepsdKLB/view?usp=sharing A picture of the fish.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! It will improve your chances of getting an answer if you include an estimate of the size of the organism. Clearer photos would also be very helpful, but I understand that may not be possible. Please edit your post to include this essential information. (For future reference, identification questions should always be given the species-identification tag.) ——— Please also take the tour and then go through the help center pages starting with How to Ask questions effectively on this site. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Aug 4 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ The array of fins brings Lionfish to mind, bit I have no idea if this is what they look like from above. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Aug 4 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ @bob1 I just looked up images of them from above. It doesn't look like it, if you ask me. It almost has a pufferfish-like body. media.sciencephoto.com/image/c0153618/800wm/… $\endgroup$ Aug 5 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, and I haven't been able to find a list of fish species with pictures from the area either... lots of sport fishing species, but nothing for the in-shore or estuarine. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Aug 5 at 9:41
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Based on the location, size, behavior, and shape (particularly of the pectoral fins) this appears to be a flying (or helmet) gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) with its "wings" folded.

These range of these fish includes the Caribbean and they are known to use the forepart of their pectoral fins (i.e. the free extra 'fin' near their head) for "exploring the bottom" 1-3, which fits the behavior you described.

The size is also reasonable since they are said to reach up to 50 cm in length.

Image below for comparison — note these fish are described as being highly variable in coloration. Photo 108397502, (c) slebris, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)

Image © slebris from iNaturalist some rights reserved

References:

  1. https://fishbase.mnhn.fr/summary/1021

  2. Roux C; Dactylopteridae. In: Miller, P. J., Whitehead, P. J. P., Bauchot, M. L., Hureau, J. C., Nielsen, J., & Tortonese, E. (1986). Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. III. Richard Clay Ltd, Bungay, United Kingdom.

  3. Davenport, J., & Wirtz, P. (2019). Digging with ‘hands’: observations of food capture in the flying gurnard Dactylopterus volitans (Linnaeus, 1758). Journal of Natural History, 53(41-42), 2489-2501.

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent choice, It didn't even cross my mind that gurnard would be present there. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Aug 9 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @bob1 —— Thanks — gurnards do have a surprisingly wide range. I actually stumbled on this while I was researching a comment suggesting the OP look on iNaturalist since they clearly weren't going to get an answer here! $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Aug 11 at 23:30

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