Tidepool sculpin

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Tidepool sculpin
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Cottidae
Genus: Oligocottus
O. maculosus
Binomial name
Oligocottus maculosus
Girard, 1856 [1]

The tidepool sculpin (Oligocottus maculosus) is a fish species in the sculpin family Cottidae that ranges from the Bering Sea to southern California. Individuals reach up to 8 cm (3 in) in length and are common in tidepools. [2] [3]



Top-down view, showing width of head Tidepool sculpin Peter Pearsall U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.jpg
Top-down view, showing width of head

The tidepool sculpin grows to a length of about 8 cm (3 in) and has a large head, tapering body, and spiny fins. It has a single pre-opercular spine and tufts of cirri on the top of the head but not on the body below the dorsal fin as the fluffy sculpin (Oligocottus snyderi) does. [4] It varies considerably in colour, is often marbled in grey, brown and white, but may be reddish or greenish and can change colour rapidly so as to camouflage itself. [5]

Distribution and habitat

The tidepool sculpin is found in the northeastern Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea to southern California. [6] Its depth range is from the intertidal zone down to about 100 m (330 ft). It is tolerant of both brackish water and normal seawater. [3] It is found higher up the shore and is more tolerant of warmer water than other species of sculpin such as the fluffy sculpin. [7]


The tidepool sculpin is a common small fish in pools in the intertidal zone of rocky coasts, flitting from one hiding place to another. It shows great homing ability, returning each time the tide recedes to the pool in which it has taken up residence. It has been shown to have the ability to return to its home pool from a distance of 102 m (335 ft) after having been displaced for six months. [4] It is a predator, feeding on small invertebrates such as isopods, amphipods, gastropod molluscs, polychaete worms and barnacles, as well as insects that happen to fall into the water. Small amounts of algae also form part of the diet. Sculpins are preyed upon by diving birds and by predatory fishes when the tide is high. [8] When the seas are rough it moves higher up the shore. It can leave the water and breathe air, exchanging both oxygen and carbon dioxide, while hiding in a damp spot, and it attempts to evade predators by flapping about or wriggling in an effort to reach a more favourable location. [7]

The fish become mature when about 35 mm (1.4 in) in length. The male has modified anal fin rays, and either they are used as claspers with fertilisation being internal, [8] or the male clasps the female and fertilises the eggs as they are being laid. [3] Small clusters of eggs are laid in late winter, often in crevices or empty barnacle shells. The larvae are planktonic in the open sea; in embayments, they sometimes school near the seabed. After thirty to sixty days the larvae move back to rock pools and become juvenile fish. Their growth rate is affected if they are too crowded in a pool. [8]

Related Research Articles

Cottidae Family of fishes

The Cottidae are a family of fish in the superfamily Cottoidea, the sculpins. It is the largest sculpin family, with about 275 species in 70 genera. They are referred to simply as cottids to avoid confusion with sculpins of other families.

Tide pool Rocky pool on a seashore, separated from the sea at low tide, filled with seawater

A tide pool or rock pool is a shallow pool of seawater that forms on the rocky intertidal shore. Many of these pools exist as separate bodies of water only at low tide.

Grunt sculpin Species of fish

The grunt sculpin or grunt-fish is a small fish mainly found in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The grunt sculpin generally remains close to shore and is often found in empty giant barnacle shells. The common name comes from reports that the fish vibrate or "grunt" when held. Its defining feature is its tendency to “hop” along the ocean floor on its orange fins. The short, stout body of the grunt sculpin has a long, small mouth which is adapted for eating smaller prey.

Psychrolutidae Family of fishes

The fish family Psychrolutidae contains about 6 recognized species in 4 genera. This family consists of bottom-dwelling marine sculpins shaped like tadpoles, with large heads and bodies that taper back into small, flat tails. The skin is loosely attached and movable, and the layer underneath it is gelatinous. The eyes are placed high on the head, focused forward closer to the tip of the snout. Members of the family generally have large, leaf-like pectoral fins and lack scales, although some species are covered with soft spines. This is important to the species as the depths in which they live are highly pressurized and they are ambush/opportunistic/foraging predators that do not expend energy unless they are forced to. The blobfish has a short, broad tongue and conical teeth that are slightly recurved and are arranged in bands in irregular rows along the premaxillaries; canines are completely absent. Teeth are nonexistent on the palatines and vomer; which make up the hard palate. The blobfish also has a set of specialized pharyngeal teeth that are well developed and paired evenly along the upper and lower portions of the pharyngeal arch. These specialized teeth may aid in the breakdown of food due to the very strategic dependency on whatever food falls from above.

Intertidal zone Area of coast exposed only at low tide

The intertidal zone, also known as the foreshore or seashore, is the area above water level at low tide and underwater at high tide. This area can include several types of habitats with various species of life, such as seastars, sea urchins, and many species of coral with regional differences in biodiversity. Sometimes it is referred to as the littoral zone, although that can be defined as a wider region.

King-of-the-salmon Species of fish

King-of-the-salmon, Trachipterus altivelis, is a species of ribbonfish in the family Trachipteridae. Its common name comes from the legends of the Makah people west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which hold that this fish leads the salmon annually to their spawning grounds. Catching or eating king-of-the-salmon was forbidden, as it was feared killing one would stop the salmon run. This myth is reflected by a former specific epithet used for this fish, rex-salmonorum, rex being Latin for "king". The king-of-the-salmon is found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Alaska to Chile. It is usually found in the open ocean to a depth of 900 meters, though adults sometimes feed on the sea bottom.

Red Irish lord Species of fish

The red Irish lord is a species of fish in the family Cottidae. It is found in the northern Pacific Ocean, from Russia to Alaska and as far south as Monterey Bay. It is a distinctly red fish, with brown, yellow, white, and black mottling, that is generally around 30 cm (12 in) long, though specimens can grow to up to 51 cm (20 in) in length. German naturalist Wilhelm Gottlieb Tilesius formally described it in 1811. Carnivorous, it hides camouflaged among rocks on the ocean floor and lashes out to seize its prey—crabs, fish and shrimp.

Coastal fish Fish that inhabit the sea between the shoreline and the edge of the continental shelf

Coastal fish, also called inshore fish or neritic fish, inhabit the sea between the shoreline and the edge of the continental shelf. Since the continental shelf is usually less than 200 metres (660 ft) deep, it follows that pelagic coastal fish are generally epipelagic fish, inhabiting the sunlit epipelagic zone. Coastal fish can be contrasted with oceanic fish or offshore fish, which inhabit the deep seas beyond the continental shelves.

Allosmerus is a monotypic genus of smelt. Its sole species, Allosmerus elongatus, the whitebait smelt, is an uncommon Northeast Pacific smelt, about which little is known. Originally described as both Osmerus attenuatus and O. elongatus, these two species were determined to be conspecific in 1946. The fish can grow from 7–9 inches (18–23 cm) in length, has large eyes, a greenish-gray color on its back, and a silver band along its sides. Unlike most other smelt species which generally have no enlarged teeth in the roof of their mouth, the whitebait has single large tooth in the center of its vomer, which is sometimes flanked by a smaller tooth on either side. The adult males of the species have a longer anal fin.

Hypomesus pretiosus, or surf smelt, is a marine smelt with a range from Prince William Sound, Alaska to Long Beach, California, although its population declines south of San Francisco. The surf smelt grows to be about 10 inches in southern waters, and 834 inches in northern waters near Canada. On average, surf smelt weigh about 10 to the pound.

The graveldiver is a species of perciform fish, the only species in the genus Scytalina and the family Scytalinidae. Graveldivers are small, with snake-like heads. Their bodies are compact, and lack pelvic fins, with very small pectoral fins. Their range encompasses the coastal area from the Bering Sea to central California.

Montagus blenny Species of fish

Montagu's blenny, also known as the capuchin blenny, is a species of combtooth blenny found in the intertidal zones of the eastern Atlantic ocean from England to Madeira and the Canary Islands as well the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. This species prefers rocky shores with much wave action. This species grows to a length of 7.6 centimetres (3.0 in) SL. It is the only species in the genus Coryphoblennius.

Sailfin sculpin Species of fish

The sailfin sculpin is a species of scorpaeniform marine fish in the sea raven family Hemitripteridae, native to the eastern Pacific Ocean from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska to San Miguel Island off southern California. Named for its elongated, sail-like first dorsal fin, the sailfin sculpin is a popular subject of public aquaria; it is of no interest to commercial fishery.

<i>Artedius lateralis</i> Species of fish

Artedius lateralis, also known as the smoothhead sculpin or round-nosed sculpin, is a species of sculpin in the family Cottidae. The species, commonly found in the intertidal zone and to depths of 43 feet, is native to the northern Pacific, from Russia and the Bering Sea to Baja California. Growing to a length of 14 centimeters, it takes its name from the lack of scales on its head.

<i>Liparis mucosus</i> Species of fish

Liparis mucosus, or the slimy snailfish, is a fish from the genus Liparis. The fish can be found from intertidal areas to 15 meters in depth. In general, they are not found in tide pools. The slimy snailfish ranges in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean from Sitka, Alaska to southern British Columbia, Canada as well as to Baja California, Mexico. It grows to 2.8–5 inches.

Rosy sculpin Species of fish

The rosy sculpin is a fish species in the sculpin family Cottidae. It inhabits the coastal northeastern Pacific Ocean, ranging from Fort Bragg to Baja California (Mexico). Individuals reach up to 10 cm (3.9 in) in length, and are found in the intertidal and subtidal zones.

Fluffy sculpin Species of fish

The fluffy sculpin or Lizard Fish is a fish species in the sculpin family Cottidae. It inhabits the coastal northwestern Pacific Ocean, ranging from Sitka, Alaska to Baja California (Mexico). Individuals reach up to 9 cm (3.5 in) in length, and are commonly found in tidepools, often associated with algae.

Bald sculpin Species of fish

The bald sculpin is a species of sculpin native to the eastern Pacific Ocean, ranging from coastal Oregon to Baja, California. Individuals reach up to 13 cm (5.1 in) in length, and are commonly found in tidepools.

Pacific spiny lumpsucker Species of fish

The Pacific spiny lumpsucker is a species of bony fish in the family Cyclopteridae.


  1. Bailly, Nicolas (2017). "Oligocottus maculosus Girard, 1856". WoRMS. World Register of Marine Species . Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  2. Eschmeyer, William N.; Herald, Earl S. (1999). A Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes: North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 177–178. ISBN   0-618-00212-X.
  3. 1 2 3 Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2016). "Oligocottus maculosus" in FishBase . March 2016 version.
  4. 1 2 Eschmeyer, William N.; Herald, Earl S. (1999). A Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes: North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 178–179. ISBN   0-618-00212-X.
  5. Kruckeberg, Arthur R. (1995). The Natural History of Puget Sound Country. University of Washington Press. pp. 91–92. ISBN   978-0-295-97477-4.
  6. "Tidepool sculpin • Oligocottus maculosus". Biodiversity of the Central Coast. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  7. 1 2 Allen, Larry G.; Horn, Michael H. (2006). The Ecology of Marine Fishes: California and Adjacent Waters. University of California Press. pp. 207–210. ISBN   978-0-520-93247-0.
  8. 1 2 3 Denny, Mark W.; Gaines, Steven Dean; Pfister, Catherine A. (2007). Encyclopedia of Tidepools and Rocky Shores. University of California Press. p. 485. ISBN   978-0-520-25118-2.