Monday, November 22, 2010


Lifting seaweed and turning over rocks on the beach this summer, we often startled (and were startled by) a frantic fish, thinking we were herons, probably. Like this one:

When in danger or in doubt,
Spin in circles, scream and shout.*
 I'd never seen a fish spin like a top before. "Where's the heron? Which way should I go?"

We disturbed clingfish like this one on several beaches. Eventually, when they couldn't escape, they lay still, hoping to be invisible.

Northern clingfish, Gobiesox maeandricus. With a northern mudworm, Paranemertes peregrina.
 On their underside, they have a large suction disc, which enables them to stick to rocks even in high current areas. They are smooth, scaleless, and have no spines. (No, they are not spineless; they do have a spinal cord. The spines they don't have would be on their fins and heads. Words are tricky things, sometimes.)

Right-click on the photo to see it full size. See how smooth it is? It looks almost as if it were varnished with that thick polyurethane stuff popular a few years back. These little fish are covered with slime; it's almost impossible to get a grip on one with your hand. The harder you grab, the faster they escape.

Camouflaged sculpin
These sculpins don't panic; they rely on their cloak of invisibility.  Like most sculpins, they ambush their prey, blending in with their background until the hapless critter ventures too close.

Gunnel, captured and peaceful. I'm not a heron, after all.

The exposed beach is a dangerous place.
*Except that fish can't scream, I think. They would if they could, though.


  1. That opening picture captures the spinning perfectly.Made me laugh - good thing on a Monday morning!

  2. Great post. I was on the beach yesterday and posted what I saw.

    I have never seen a spin fish though.


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