Grunt Sculpin

Author: Tabitha Baatz

Common name: Grunt Sculpin

Scientific name: Rhamphocottus  richardsonii

Size range: up to 8.3 cm

Identifying features: Spiny pectoral fins, lower rays are not webbed; used for gripping and hopping on the substrate.  They have a long snout and there is no definition between the head and body other than the gills.  Usually bright colours; tan to orange with brown saddles.

Habitat: Temperate coastal waters of the North Pacific; Japan to Alaska.  As far south as Santa Monica Bay.  Inhabits tidal pools, rocky areas, and sandy bottoms of depths of 165 m.  They take shelter in empty giant barnacles, bottles, cans, and nooks in the bottom of reefs.

Food: Adults eat copepods, amphipods, zooplankton, decapod and barnacle larvae, and crustaceans.  The young are too small to eat crustaceans.  Grunt sculpins have thick lips and small teeth.

Predators: The Grunt Sculpin escapes being eaten by hiding in empty Giant Barnacle shells.  It sticks its snout out to make it look as if the barnacle is closed but alive.  It will also turn around and stick its tail out and wave it back and forth to make it seem as if the barnacle is feeding.  Captive Grunt Sculpin will react to fast or looming objects beyond the glass.  They will also eat frozen krill but not dried fish flakes.

Life Cycle: During spawning the female will chase a male into a crevice and keep him there until she lays her eggs. The male will then fertilize them.  Spawning time is winter and spring.  Both of the parents will take care of the eggs until they hatch-about six months.  The eggs are coloured yellow to orange.

Photos by T. Baatz and D. Young

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Black Prickleback

Authors: Matt Czyz and Garnet Spring

Common name: Black Prickleback

Scientific name: Xiphister atropurpureus

Size: up to 30cm in length

Identifying Features

The Black Prickleback is dark reddish brown to black in color with a pale head. The head is small with approximately three light edged bands radiating from each eye. They are also recognized for having large features, especially a large jaw.


Black Pricklebacks prefer to live in rocky terrain with algae cover. They can be found under rocks and gravel and the smaller ones are commonly found in small tide pools. They are capable of breathing air and can be out of water for up to twenty three hours.  They do this by keeping moist by burrowing under seaweed and wet rocks. Usually they live somewhere around 7.6 meters from the surface. They tend to stay away from areas where fishermen operate.

Food (Prey)

The typical diet of a Black Pricklebacks includes crabs, gammarid amphipods, worms and some varieties of algae.


Black Pricklebacks are mainly hunted by sea birds or other larger “eels” and other fish.  They have adapted to avoid these predators by using their small size and ability to take cover under rocks or in plants. Their size plays a large role as they can hide under or inbetween rocks where other fish as well as gulls and other birds cannot see them or reach them.

Life cycle

Spawning takes places from February to April off the west coast of the United States and from April to mid-May off the coast of British Columbia. Females will lay 700 to 4000 eggs under rocks or other protected areas. The eggs are deposited one by one and fertilized by the male.  They are then shaped into spherical clusters by the mother and father. Males fertilize and guard the eggs from multiple mates.  Black Pricklebacks can live to be thirteen years old but their overall age at maturity is just two years.

Photos by D. Young

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The Bay Pipefish

By Jesse W.M Campbell

Common name: Bay Pipefish, North West Pacific Pipefish, Kelp Pipefish

Scientific name: Sygnathus leptorhynchus (Sygnathus griseolineatus)

Size range: Females may grow up to 39cm (15.6 inches).

Identifying Features:  A long, slender, tube like body with bony plates giving the animal a slightly hexagonal circumference. The dorsal fin is shallow, rectangular, and mostly translucent giving the Bay Pipefish the appearance of having an undulating flag attached to its vertebrae. The pectoral (side, by gill cover) and tail fins are semi circular and tiny in proportion to its elongated body. Bay Pipefish undulate there dorsal fins and paddle the pectoral fins while the body positions itself. The pipefish steers by moving its head up, down and side to side.  Like other members of the Syngnathos (together-jaws) genre the Bay Pipefish has a small terminal (upward directed) mouth with a long, slender, tube like cavity leading to the gill covers. The body plates meet to form a bony ridge along the length of the body which contains the sensory organs which are collectively known as the lateral line. Bay Pipefish are often seen in varying shades of forest and emerald green.  Olive and sand colored varieties are also known.

Habitat: The Bay Pipefish is found from Baja California to Sitka Alaska.  They are commonly found in Eel Grass beds as well as in or near sloughs and wharves such as Maple bay near the city of Duncan, British Columbia, Canada. They are generally found in shallow areas where light can penetrate to the algae beds where their favorite foods can be found.  They camouflage most effectively within Eel Grass beds. Slow currents are required for the Bay Pipefish to remain on course when searching for food, or for mating, because they are not the most efficient swimmers and steer using their heads.

Food: Crustaceans such as Amphipods, Copepods, and crab larvae proliferate in sheltered bays and Eel Grass beds. The Pipefish captures its prey by inflating its ‘cheeks’ and sucking up the morsels through its slender mouth directly to the stomach.

Predators:  There is no major commercial or sport fisheries for the Bay Pipefish. Dried pipefish and seahorses, mixed with herbs, are used as a holistic treatment in some cultures.  The collection ofSygnathus for this purpose is one of the key factors that places some of their populations at risk, particularly the seahorses.  If caught in a sudden low tide on a rocky shore the Bay pipefish may become stranded in a tidal pool and be open to predation form birds and other scavengers. The Bay pipefish’s main defense is to remain inconspicuous and to look like a meager meal.

Life Cycle:  As like other members of the Sygnathus genus the male Bay Pipefish raises the eggs. The female Pipefish courts the male, she may deposit up to 225 eggs to the brood pouch on the underside of the male. A protective membrane develops over the pouch sealing the eggs inside for incubation. The male supplies nourishment to the eggs by attachment to the abdominal wall and bloodstream. If food becomes scarce the male may derive nutrients from a few of the eggs to sustain himself for the greater good of the brood. Not all eggs will survive, those who do hatch into miniature bug eyed adults after about 2 weeks depending on water parameters. Male Pipefish have been reported carrying eggs as early as May 26th and as late as August.

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Author: Spencer Mann

Common name(s): Copper Rockfish, White Belly, and Chucklehead.

Scientific name: Sebastes caurinus

Size range: 12- 22 inches (38.1cm – 55.9cm) and weigh 4 – 10lbs

Identifying Features:

The Copper Rockfish can come in a wide range of sizes and colours. The generic colours are a white belly with orange or copper sides running from head to tail. These fish have a distinct line that runs from the front to the back of the fish. Other colours range from orange, gold, copper with a yellow highlight or brown with a pinkish tinge. They have a spiky dorsal fin with two smaller fins near the tail. Females can be identified easily simply by their size. They are larger than males because space is needed to hold more young. The young are generally the same colours as the juveniles and adults, just very small.


These fish are found along the west coast in the Pacific Ocean and commonly found in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They have been found as far north as the Gulf of Alaska. Copper Rockfish live in shallow waters about 10 – 15ft deep to the dark depths of 600ft. They can live with other creatures in similar depths and have no problem adapting. Adult fish hide out along the sea floor around rocks and plants. Once the Copper Rockfish has chosen an area to call “home”, it will not swim more than a mile from that place.


Juveniles begin feeding on planktonic crustaceans until they are able to hunt bigger prey. Older Copper Rockfish will feed on organisms such as shrimp, snails, small crabs, worms, small fish, squid and octopuses.


The juveniles hide in kelp forests and rocky areas to avoid predators such as Lingcod, Cabezon, and also salmon. As they mature, Copper Rockfish are prayed on by sea birds and sea mammals like seals and otters. As well as humans who catch them as food and for fun because they are considered a sport fish. Copper Rockfish are known to be the last to die in a net full of rockfish. They will continue to try to escape long after others have died.

Life Cycle:

Males mature between the ages of three and seven years and females mature between four to eight years. Females are generally larger to obtain up to 20,000 eggs. Each egg is 0.05 inches in diameter and the walls are 0.1 inch thick. Normally fish eggs develop outside a female, but for the Copper Rockfish, it’s internal. These females are known as a viviparous fish meaning that they will give birth to live young after 8 – 10 months. The Copper Rockfish can reach the ages of forty plus years. The young are generally the same colours as the juveniles and adults.

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Silver Spotted Sculpin

By Oshia Shillingford

Common name: Silver Spotted Sculpin

Scientific name: Blepsias cirrhosus

Size range: Up to 19cm (7.5 inches) in length

Identifying Features:  The Silver Spotted Sculpin is light olive brown, green or coppery yellow in colour. It has reflective silver spots located behind the pectoral fins.  It has two dorsal fins, and the second dorsal fin is larger than the first. It has prominent cirri on the nose and bottom jaw.

Habitat: The Silver Spotted Sculpin is found in Southern British Columbia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It is often found in protected shallow water among marine plants such as eel grass as well as in kelp beds on exposed shores.

Food: The Biology 11 class with Mr. Young has the Silver spotted Sculpin in an aquarium for four months.  Within our aquarium it has only been observed eating live shrimp and would not eat the frozen krill.  It appears to be an ambush predator.  It has been observed hiding in the eel grass for long periods of time.  Its colouration is very cryptic and it is hard to see within the rotting blades of the eel grass.  it darts out to catch the live shrimp and if it’s unsuccessful it will retreat back in to cover.

Predators: The Silver Spotted Sculpin has not been observed being taken as prey.   Larger fish or river otters might find the Silver Spotted Sculpin a tasty snack.  It is very cautious in nature and prefers to be hidden in eel grass and kelp and often looks like floating kelp itself.

Life Cycle: Observations are limited on reproduction. Eggs are clear, light brown or blue and they are attached to rocks in shallow waters. In the Puget Sound the eggs ripen in early February.

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