Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Kelp Greenling Colour and Courtship

Male kelp greenling. Normal colouration. ©2013 Jackie Hildering

Male kelp greenling. Normal colouration. ©2013 Jackie Hildering

While diving this morning, I came across a kelp greenling couple while they were courting (Hexagrammos decagrammus to 60 cm).

In addition to being fascinated by the courtship behaviour, I was struck by the intense colouration, especially of the courting male.

Mature male and female kelp greenlings look very different but I had never fully realized how the males’ gender specific colour intensifies during courtship. Their bodies become much paler while the heads remain dark blue.

Courting male on left (note how much lighter the body is than the head); female on the right. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

Courting male on left (note how much lighter the body is than the head); female on the right. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

This 1.5 minute video shows the courtship behaviour. See below for an image of eyed kelp greenling eggs.

Kelp greenling eggs in a giant barnacle shell. See the eyes?! © 2013 Jackie Hildering

Kelp greenling eggs in a giant barnacle shell. See the eyes?! © 2013 Jackie Hildering

3 Responses to “Kelp Greenling Colour and Courtship”

  1. gillian butler

    I LOVE this. My brief diving expereince years ago gave me a glimpse into the magical underwater world and I am so grateful to ahve this opportunity to once again ‘see’ the beauty.
    Kelp greenlings are now my favourite fish!

    Reply
  2. Alex Hirsekorn aka Tidepool Geek

    Hi Jackie,

    Beautiful pictures! I think, though, that you may be misinterpreting the male greenling’s courtship color change a bit. At the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles, WA we have a male that has been courting off and on for about a week now. His normal color is very similar to the one shown in the second picture of your slideshow. When he’s actively displaying for his girlfriend his head stays the same color as always but his body turns a paler shade of blue (very similar to the animal in your video). Your description seemed to imply that the head gets brighter but our observation is that the body color sort of fades. Another interesting point is the speed of the change. Our greenling will change from normal to courtship colors in a minute or less and he routinely changes back and forth according to whether the female is present in ‘his’ part of the tank. BTW: The pair has produced one small cluster of eggs (the female is smallish and may have just reached maturity.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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