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

Posts from the ‘FISH – NE Pacific Ocean’ category

Find The Fish – Volume Three!

There are now THREE Find the Fish books.

Here’s the cover of my latest book, now available at this link.

I loved that the online “The Marine Detective” community overwhelmingly chose this image for the cover showing a juvenile Yellowtail Rockfish hiding in the shell of a Red Urchin. The urchin may have lived to be more than 100 years old.

As many of you know from my weekly “Find the Fish Friday” posts, these are eye-spy challenges.

The books are the “Where’s Waldo” of the marine world. In addition to being fun, they are aimed and increasing knowledge about how diverse and colourful the life is in these cold, dark waters. The text provides information about the species in the images and invites children (and the adults who love them) to look for other species as well as the featured fish.

All photos and text are by yours truly with fish illustrations generously provided by Andy Lamb of Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest. 

The trifecta! The books are soft-cover and answer pages are included showing the locations of the fish.  
The books are self-published as Marine Matters Publishing. 

It gives me much joy that this third book in particular allows the facets of my life to come together – diving, photography, whale research and teaching. I dare say Find the Fish – Volume Three is the only children’s book that gives insight into the diversity of life off our coast while ALSO providing empowering scientific content about Sea Star Wasting Syndrome and our Marine Education & Research Society research into a new Humpback Whale feeding strategy.

And hey, the featured wildlife includes a Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker, Wolf-Eels, Scalyhead Sculpins (of course) and three of my beloved dive buddies!

Please see the sample pages below. There are 12 challenges with answer pages, an introductory page and a final page about “The Marine Detective”.

To order or see more information about the books, please click here.  

Silver strands of salmon

Salmon – shiny, silvery threads of life.
Take a few minutes to marvel at the role of wild salmon in holding together the fabric of life on our coast?

June 1st is #BCWildSalmonDay.

See the salmon in Surf’s mouth?
Surf is A66, a mature male Orca belonging to the inshore fish-eating (clearly) population of threatened Northern Residents. He was born to Sonora (A42) in 1996. While “Resident” populations of Orca also eat other fish species, their well-being is correlated to availability of salmon (especially Chinook Salmon).

Whales do not randomly blunder about looking for food. Nor are salmon flailing about arbitrarily. The fabric is so much finer than that.

For thousands of years, generation-upon-generation, families of Orca have depended on the same lineages of salmon. In these dark waters, the fish-eating Orca can literally sound out location, size and species of their prey with biosonar / echolocation. Females almost always share the catch with their family (Wright et al).

Salmon fight to return to the exact rivers of their birth by some pull we human have yet to fully understand. This flow is predictable and essential. This predictability provides ease of hunting for the many who depend on the silver flow – from fish-feasting Orca to human fisherfolk. Less energy is needed because the prey SHOULD be easy to find.

The salmon are guided to spawn so that, in death, they deliver nutrients from the Ocean back to the freshwater where they were born, even hundreds of kilometres inland. That is, if transit is not impeded by drought, siltation and slides, parasites and/or disease, or by lack of cold refuges.

The rich bodies of salmon will nourish the ecosystem so that enough of their young may survive to hold the fabric together. Their bodies feed trees, bears, eagles, song birds, insects, deer, wolves, and so much more.

By spawning and dying, the salmon also ensure their diseases and parasites die with them. Nutrients remain.

This web is made of a fabric of exquisite beauty and perfection, shaped by vast expanses of time. Weathered, refined, and adapted by slow change.

But, now, change comes far too fast through the actions, and insufficient reactions, of those who do blunder and act arbitrarily. We, the humans without sufficient understanding of the intricacy of it all, nor how we are attached to the threads.

Know that what helps salmon, herring, whales – is the fabric that holds we clumsy bipeds together too.

Not disparate problems.
But the same life-enhancing solutions.

Care more. Consume less.

Photo: ©Jackie Hildering taken in 2014 in Kwakwak’wakw Territory, northeast Vancouver Island.

Related blog but with me applying Seussian style: A World Without Salmon

A Fish as Limp as a Rag?

The fish below was found in the mouth of a Lingcod recently and created quite a stir on social media when the photos by Rugged Point Lodge were shared on social media. What species of fish was this?

I did NOT know the ID of this fish but thankfully Andy Lamb shared his knowledge that this was a juvenile Ragfish. One of the remarkable things about this species is that it is really limp, hence RAGfish

Ragfish are Icosteus aenigmaticus and can be 2.13 meter long (7 feet).

From Andy’s “Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest“:
“The Ragfish usually lives in deep water an is termed a bathypelagic species. However, this fish is often found shallower as a juvenile. It’s only an occassional Pacific Northwest visitor, usually during warm weather events . . . A very limp, flappy body supported by a cartilaginous skeleton.”

Andy confirmed that sightings are vrare. Then, another juvenile was sighted thanks to Heather Lord and Nick Felch. This one was live and in the area of Clayoquot Sound.

More about the species from Dr. Milton Love’s “Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast“:
“Icosteus means “to yield” and “bone” in Greek, referring to the limp body and “aenigmaticus means “puzzling” in Greek. “Ragfish” comes from its Über-limpness 🙂 . . .

Ranges: Okhotsk Sea and Pacific Coast of Honshu to Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska to Point Loma (Southern California). Larvae have been taken further southwards, off northern most Baja California . . . .

Salient characteristics: Oh so flabby is the ragfish; that’s the character you do wish; but if, by chance, you’re satisfied – not; we’ll tell you other things they have got. The juvies: spotted, scaled, and rounded; have pelvic fins to keep them grounded; adults lack pelvics, spots and scales; are brown and purple, both fems and males.”

With thanks too to Dr. John Ford for relaying the second juvenile Ragfish sighting.

Gunnel, Gunnel, Gone!

Meet the Penpoint Gunnel, another fabulous fish face and master of camouflage.

The colour of Penpoint Gunnels varies as much as the colour of seaweed . . . from olive green, to golden brown to red. In fact, the colour of Penpoint Gunnels is generally such a perfect match to their seaweed habitat, that they sometimes seem to disappear into it. Presto – gone!

I recently met the individual in the photo above. We were in the surf zone at about 3 metres depth, the water above our heads crashing against the rocks. One of us was way better adapted to go with the flow. It wasn’t me. Penpoint Gunnel is Apodichthys flavidus to 48 cm long.

There’s a great paper from 1966 by Don Wilkie on the colour of Penpoint Gunnels. An interpretation of the paper by FISHBIO includes: “The coloration of adult penpoint gunnels typically matches the dominant algal community of their habitat. Green individuals are found in the upper intertidal zone where green algae (and eelgrass) is most common, brown specimens most frequently occur in the mid-to-lower intertidal zone where brown algae mainly occurs, and in deeper water where red algae become increasingly prevalent, penpoint gunnels tend to be red as well.”

Here’s a mystery. Penpoint Gunnels CAN’T change their colour to match their surroundings. So how can they have the variety of colour and be so well-matched to their habitat, as is evident in my photos below? Read on!

How can they be such a match to the algae when they cannot change their colour? Is colour determined through the genetics of their parents? Research suggests not! Is it determined by their diet when they are adults? Also no!

It appears that the colour is determined by (1) the vegetation upon which the transparent / colourless larvae settle and/or (2) by which amphipods the larvae eat.

From Wilkie: “Field and laboratory studies were undertaken to examine the ecological role of colouration in the penpoint gunnel Apodichthys flavidus . . . A. flavidus was found to prefer cover under rocks to that within vegetation, but when provided with vegetation alone chose that which it matched. The colour phases observed in A. flavidus were found to be determined directly by the pigments they contained not by differences in stages of chromatophore expansion . . . . Colour change experiments showed that A. flavidus cannot undergo complete changes of colour phase in response to environment alone. Diet has an influence on colour, but complete colour changes were not produced experimentally.

Larvae were reared from the eggs of green and brown individuals. All developed colouration more similar to that of the Artemia [brine shrimp] upon which they were fed than to their parental type . . . It is suggested that the colouration of A. flavidus has a cryptic function which is of importance primarily during food seeking. It is hypothesized that the vegetation upon which A. flavidus larvae settle in conjunction with early diet primarily determines the colouration of individuals.

So, while Penpoint Gunnels cannot change colour, they appear to be able to recognize and select the vegetation for which their colour is a good match. What this also suggests is that the depth where an individual started of his/her life as a larva, will be the depth where they would/should live out their life.

As described above, because of the limits of how deep wavelengths of light can travel, there are zones of seaweeds / algae. Green seaweeds are in the shallows, then there are brown seaweeds, and then red seaweeds are the deepest (their pigment can best absorb the blue-green light that can penetrate to greater depths). If a Penpoint Gunnel started off as a larvae feeding on amphipods that are well-matched to green seaweed, the research supports this is what would make them green coloured. If that individual moved deeper into the brown or red zone, they would not have the appropriately coloured seaweed to match their colour.

ID Challenges

It can be wonderfully difficult to discern Penpoint Gunnels from the other gunnel species off the coast of British Columbia (6 species total).

If you get a really good look at the back end of a Penpoint Gunnel, that really helps in IDIng the species. The “penpoint” refers to the first spine of the anal fin. It’s large and grooved like a fountain pen point. Yes, I know that most often that ID tip is not really going to help with a live individual. 🙂

I find it the most difficult to discern Penpoint Gunnels from Crescent Gunnels (Pholis laeta to 25 cm) and Saddleback Gunnels (Pholis ornata and 30 cm). Those species also have a wide variety in colour and have the black bar by their eye and, Penpoint Gunnels also can have markings along their backs. I don’t believe it is known how their colour of Crescent and Saddleback Gunnels is determined.

Then there are also Rockweed Gunnels, Longfin Gunnels, and Red Gunnels off the coast of British Columbia. Oh, and there are other elongate fish found in similar habitats, like species of prickleback and cockscomb!

The next six photos are included to maybe help with IDing gunnels. They are all NOT Penpoint Gunnels.

Then, at the end of the blog, there’s a fun fishing finding venture for you.

Who goes there? I initially had this individual identified as a Penpoint Gunnel but was thankfully corrected by Andy Lamb. He pointed out that this is either a Crescent or Saddleback Gunnel because there are pale bands adjacent to the dark ones through the eyes.
Crescent Gunnel – common name is for the crescent-like markings along the back.
Another Crescent Gunnel. You can see the crescent-like markings better with this perspective.
Ths is another Crescent Gunnel and here you can see that there are very tiny pelvic fins in front of the pectoral fins (that little bump). Penpoint Gunnels do not have those.
This is NOT a Crescent Gunnel. Andy Lamb let me know this is a Saddleback Gunnel because Saddleback Gunnels have darker stretches between the markings along their backs and because these markings are more saddle-shaped than crescent-shaped. Sure, that should help! You say saddle. I say crescent!
Er sorry – things are even more fun. This is not a Penpoint Gunnel, nor Saddleback Gunnel, nor Crescent Gunnel. It’s a Longfin Gunnel (Pholis clemensi to 13 cm long). How to know when colour and the markings along the back are similar to other species? There are those little dots along the midline of the fish. Yes, it’s often a combination of features that help determine the ID.

Find the Fish!

Many of you may know that every Friday I do a “Find the Fish Friday’ challenge and have two children’s books by the same name. These are the “Where’s Waldo” of the fish world with the intent being that, when people search for the fish in my images, they are also absorbing what the life looks like in the dark, rich Northeast Pacific Ocean.

Below are three such challenges where there is one fish to be found in each photo and it is a Penpoint Gunnel. At the very end of the blog I reveal the location of the fishes. Enjoy!

Summary for Penpoint Gunnels

Species information from “Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Pacific Coast” by Dr. Milton Love includes:

Maximum length to 46 cm. The Ranges: Kodiak Island to Santa Barbara and Gaviota (Southern California). They are abundant from at least Prince William Sound (northern Gulf of Alaska) to Central California. Intertidal to 8, including tide pools. Most fish live int he intertidal or barely subtidal . . .

Penpints are long, thin, and eel-like, distinguished by a deeply grooved spine on the front of the anal fin (hence the name “penpoint”), a line extending downward through the eyes, and no pelvic fins. The body colour is highly variable: orange, red, and magenta, bright green, olive, or bronze. While usually a solid colour, the body can be highly mottled, with a row of dark or light spots along the midline . . .”

Answers to the three Find the Fish challenges above

This was the very same fish as in the first photo in this blog. I photographed him/her in April 2021 in Browning Pass.
This little guy/gal was in only about 2 metres depth beside a boat ramp in Port Hardy. This is one of the challenges included in my first Find the Fish book.


Crabs Making Bad Choices

[Update: Species corrected thanks to Greg Jensen. I initially posted that the crab in the first 3 photos was a Moss Crab].

How do crabs make bad choices?

Let me show you via my photos and a “conversation” with the crab in the next three photos.


Oh hello mature male Sharpnose Crab. I almost didn’t see you there!

Please may I take a photo of how you have fabulously decorated yourself to camouflage against predators, using bits of algae, sponges, tunicates and hydroids?

It’s fascinating how your species, and others who decorate themselves, have little hooks (setae) on your exoskeleton to which attach life from around you AND that you change outfits when your change backgrounds. Do you sometimes also use the camouflage as easy-to-reach snacks?


Oh, oh! Wait!

You don’t know you are walking onto the head of a Red Irish Lord, an ambush hunter who is extraordinarily camouflaged too.



Careful! You are on the menu for this fish species.

The Red Irish Lord will try to grab you, ideally from the back of your shell. That’s what happened to the crab in the next two photos.


Indeed, that’s the same species of fish. Red Irish Lords have incredible diversity in colour to blend in so that you, and I, have great difficulty detecting them.

When the fish does not have the advantage of a sneak attack, you can defend yourself by spreading out your claws really wide. Like what you see below.

Then, it’s difficult for the Red Irish Lord to fit you into his / her mouth.


Yes, I too imagine the crab in the above two photos saying, “You want a piece of me?!”

It’s said of your species that you “put little effort into decoration”. Such judgement!

In another species, the Moss Crab, a correlation has been found between size and how much decoration there is. Once big, especially with claws spread wide, mature male Moss Crabs cannot easily be gulped up whereby there is less need for camouflage. But mature male Moss Crabs are huge! Up to 12.3 cm just across their carapace. Your species, the Sharpnose Crab (Scyra acutifrons) is only up to 4.5 cm across the carapace. Mature males of your kind have a far greater reach with their claws than mature females.

By the way what’s with the posturing with mature males of your kind when they do what is shown in the photo below?

Yours is NOT the only crab species that can be gulped up. I think it might be a Graceful Kelp Crab who has been engulfed by the Red Irish Lord below.


Below is another crab in danger of making a fatal choice as it advances down the face of the Red Irish Lord. See how precarious this is? The fish will remain motionless, waiting, waiting till you are in the ideal position to ambushed from behind. Then your claws are of little use to you.


There you go dear human readers.

I do not know the fate of either of the crabs on the heads of the Red Irish Lords. I had to return to the world where we humans can also make really bad choices.

Why no, my referencing human bad choices on November 4th 2020 is purely coincidental. Insert innocent eye batting here. What choices could I POSSIBLY be referencing? ☺️

Be kind. Be colourful. Be careful. Be truthful. Be safe.  💙

Regarding the photo above, see the Red Irish Lord and the two crabs with outstretched claws?

Related TMD Blogs:


Drake, Catherine Anne, “Decorating Behavior and Decoration Preference in the Masking Crab, Loxorhynchus Crispatus” (2016). Capstone Projects and Master’s Theses. 74.

Jensen, Gregory. (2014). Crabs and Shrimps of the Pacific Coast: A guide to shallow-water decapods from southeastern Alaska to the Mexican border.

Wicksten, M. (1978). Attachment of Decorating Materials in Loxorhynchus crispatus (Brachyura: Majidae)Transactions of the American Microscopical Society, 97(2), 217-220. doi:10.2307/3225595


Fish Have Homes!

I found back the same Tiger Rockfish in the same spot after eight years.

Yes, on top of cataloguing Humpback Whales, I catalogue Tiger Rockfish. I can’t stop myself.

There’s so much that may be learned when you can recognize animals as individuals. There is more conservation value too when people realize that even individual fish have homes.

The markings in this species of rockfish are so distinct that it is easy to recognize them as individuals IF they are not tucked away deep in a crack which is often their way. See below to compare the markings of this mature female to two other individuals for whom I also have repeat sightings at this location.  I will clearly have to hand off this cataloguing to a younger biologist since these fish are likely to outlive me. They are known to be able to live to age 116.

I was already very excited when I found back this individual after 6 years. Now I can show that this fish was documented in the exact same location after least 8 years. This shows how strong the site fidelity is and why Rockfish Conservation Areas can have such success. Please read more on Rockfish Conservation Areas, barotrauma and rockfish reproduction in my previous blog at this link.

Tiger Rockfish = Sebastes nigrocinctus to 61 cm (35 cm by 17 years of age).

Below, pages from my Tiger Rockfish ID catalogue for this site.

The fish above is “Tiger Rockfish 1”. Note how distinct the markings are and how easy it is to recognize these individuals. I nickname these fish for distinctive features as we do with the Humpback Whales. Tiger Rockfish #1 is now “Papillon” for the bowtie like marking on the right side of her head.

Below is another Tiger Rockfish in my catalogue so you can see how distinctive their markings are, allowing them to be recognized as individuals. 

Update 2022-09-14
Have now documented Rockfish #4 (Darwin) for 3 years in the same location. See my posts from April and September 2022 below. 



Five Fish

Five fish. One Dive.

Here are just five fabulous fish faces from my dive on July 12. These are just the fish who tolerated my taking photos. I am sharing with you to add to the sense of biodiversity hidden in these waters.

Also, I really value what I feel is mirrored back from these fish . . . the “What the hell are YOU and what are you doing here?” It’s good to feel like a visitor in others’ habitat rather than than a human at the epicentre of the universe. It’s below the waves, with the fish, that I best know my place and where I best feel humility. I also feel apology, not just for the disturbance of taking photos but as an ambassador for my species.

Sometimes I think as I look at the life below the surface “I’m trying. Please know, I’m trying”.

Thank you for caring and for trying too.

[Please note that I did not realize when compiling these photos that I have a blog on every species represented here. I suggest that the most insight would be gained from reading this blog first and then accessing the further links I provide here showing video, etc.]

Fish #1
Male Kelp Greenling with a Striped Sunflower Star to his right.


This species seems to so often be chasing one another and they have extraordinary courtship where the males change colour. Males will guard the fertilized eggs.

Video of the courtship is in my blog “Kelp Greenling Colour and Courtship” at this link.

Photo above is another perspective on the same fish. Note that the bright orange life you see here are animals, not plants. They are Orange Hydroids. The soft coral beside the Kelp Greenling’s head is Red Soft Coral.

Fish #2
Quillback Rockfish

Quillbacks, like so many of BC’s 34 rockfish species, have been over-exploited.

Rockfish are slow to mature, and are very localized in where they live. Therefore, they are particularly vulnerable to overfishing.

As divers, we’ve seen how Rockfish Conservation Areas can make a real difference for the number, diversity and size of rockfish.

There is no egg-guarding in this species because the young develop inside the females and are born into the water i.e. they are viviparous.

Please see my previous blog “Rockfish Barotrauma” at this link on the importance of Rockfish Conservation Areas and also on how to reverse what happens to rockfish when they are brought up from depth i.e. how to easily reverse barotrauma.

Quillback Rockfish = Sebastes maliger to 61 cm.

Fish Face #3

Lingcod males also guard the fertilized eggs. They are extraordinary large masses that look like Styrofoam. We survey for the egg masses each year to get a sense of potential recovery since this species was overexploited. It’s believed the same males guard eggs in the same spot year upon year. This again helps understanding of how many fish have homes whereby fishing intensely in one area can lead easily to overexploitation. My blog “Fastidious, Fanged Fathers” at this link shows the egg masses with information on Ocean Wise’s Lingcod Egg Mass Survey. 

Lingcod = Ophiodon elongatus, females larger, to 1.5 m.

Fish Face #4
Buffalo Sculpin

Yes, this is a fish, not a rock with eyes.

There is so little understanding about how species like this can change their colour as they do.

It won’t surprise you that the most research is done on “commercially important” species with regards to stock management. Males also guard the fertilized eggs in this species.  See my blog “Buffalos Mating Underwater” at this link for photos showing the diversity of colour / camouflage and for photos of the eggs.

Buffalo Sculpin = Enophrys bison to 37 cm long.

Fish #5
Red Irish Lord


I must have disturbed this Red Irish Lord with my bubbles for him/ her to be easily visible like this. They are usually fully camouflaged.

Note the shell the Red Irish Lord is on. This is a Giant Rock Scallop whose shell has been drilled into by Boring Sponge. Astounding isn’t it to think that Giant Rock Scallops (Crassadoma gigantea to 25 cm across) start off as plankton; are free-swimming to ~2.5 cm; and then attach to the bottom with their right side and can grow to 25 cm. They may live as long as 50 years but there have been problems with human over-harvesting.

Red Irish Lord parents take turns caring for their fertilized eggs (Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus; up to 51 cm).

Please see my blog “In the Eye of the Lord – the Red Irish Lord That Is” at this link. 

Lingcod = Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus, to 51 cm long. 

And the final photo and thoughts for you dear reader:

Same Red Irish Lord as in the photo above.


Under the canopy, beams of light shimmering through as they would in a forest of trees, bringing energy to the algae which feed the depths. This is all at only 5m depth. This is life you could imagine when you close your eyes and think of the dark sea off our coast. This is the world where Humpbacks feed, where families of Orca follow the same lineages of Chinook Salmon generation after generation, where species exist without our knowledge let alone our respect. This is their world. This is the world to which all life on earth is connected.

Five fish. One dive. A world connected.

Find the Fish for Oceans Day

Here you have five Find the Fish challenges for Oceans Day. 


Photo to give a sense of the equipment needed to dive in cold water. Yes, that includes a tutu. 

You may be aware that I post one such search on social media every Friday (i.e a “Find the Fish Friday” challenge)
and that there are two Find the Fish children’s books as well.

The aim of these “Where’s Waldos” of the fish world, is to help create awareness of what it looks like below the surface of the dark, cold NE Pacific Ocean. So often we are presented with marine imagery from warm waters, not realizing that it is the cold, current-rich waters of the world that have more oxygen dissolved in them. More oxygen means more life and the resulting plankton soup makes this ocean appear dark. Thereby, the colour, beauty and fragility are hidden.

Often even adults do not realize they have a bias to thinking the marine life is “better” and more abundant in warmer water. But if it is easy to see deep into the water as it is in the tropics, this is because there is less plankton. If there is less plankton, there is less food to fuel the food web and there is also less oxygen production and absorption of carbon dioxide.

So here we go.

I will first show what the fish species looks like. I will then provide the challenge and then, a link to the answer.

Challenge #1:

This is a Red Irish Lord.

They can be 51 centimetres long and are incredibly good at camouflaging.

How is that possible when they are red, yellow, pink, orange and/or white? Because that’s how colourful the life around them is, so they blend in. They can be so many different colours and even their eyes have spots on them to help the camouflage.

Can you find the Red Irish Lord in the kelp forest in the picture below? If you click the photo you can make it bigger.

Click to enlarge.

Ready for the answer? Click here. 

Challenge #2:

You are searching for another Red Irish Lord in the picture below. Those anemones you see are the biggest in the world. They are called Giant Plumose Anemones and are up to 1 meter tall. Because there is so much oxygen and food in this ocean, there are many of the world”s largest marine species.

Click to enlarge.

If you are ready for the answer, click here. 

Think about why the Red Irish Lords are camouflaged and are most often motionless, not swimming around the ocean in schools like other kinds of fish. What advantages does it give them to behave like this.

You probably realized that it helps them hunt. They are ambush hunters which means they wait for a fish or crab to come by and then they grab it. I have even seen crabs walk right on the face of a Red Irish Lord.

In the picture below, see what the crab is doing? By making itself really big by spreading its claws, the Red Irish Lord will not be able fit the crab into its mouth!

When an animal is camouflaged, it has a better chance of being hidden from: 

1.  The animals trying to eat it (predators); 

2.  The animals it hopes to eat (prey); and

3.  Others of its kind that might compete for food or mating. 

Challenge #3:

This is a Longfin Sculpin. See the amazing colours and textures. It’s a smaller fish. Maximum size is to 15 centimetres.

Can you find a Longfin Sculpin in the photo below?
All those orange circles are animals. They are Orange Cup Corals.
The rocks are covered with species of coralline algae. Yes, this is a pink type of seaweed that forms crusts all over the rocks. 
The two white animals close together are a species of sea slug. They are called Yellow-Rimmed Nudibranchs. They are mating and the spiral you see is a ribbon of  their eggs. There are hundreds of tiny little eggs in that spiral and the babies will hatch into the ocean.

Click to enlarge.

For the answer showing where the Longfin Sculpin is, click this link. 

Longfin Sculpins look very different at night. They are among the local fish species that darken to match their night surroundings. This is called “nocturnal colouration”. You can see how very different Longfin Sculpin’s night colour is by going to my blog here. 

Challenge #4:

This is a Blackeye Goby.

They are up to 15 centimetres long.

In the picture below. There are two Blackeye Gobies. One is easy to find but you will likely have to search quite hard to find the second one. As you search, notice the Giant Nudibranch. Yes, another GIANT. This kind of sea slug can be 30 centimetres long. They can swim and they are also amazing predators. I have lost of information about them in my blog at this link.

There are also more Orange Cup Corals, some Tube-Dwelling Anemones and Purple Urchins.

Click to enlarge.

Answer time? Click here. 

Extra information about Blackeye Gobies:  They ALL start off as females and under the right conditions, will become male. The males are tidy housekeepers, cleaning out the sand form their den. They are highly territorial and come out of their tidy homes to attract multiple females. After mating, the father fish will guard the eggs of the multiple females: ~1,600 to 27,000 eggs at a time for10 to 30 days!.

Blackeye Gobies also change colour at night to blend in better with their background.

Challenge #5 – The SUPER CHALLENGE:

This is a Scalyhead Sculpin.

They are a small fish with maximum size being only 10 centimetres. They can be a lot of different colours and the mature males have what look like big bushy eyebrows (cirri).

They are INCREDIBLE at camouflaging. There can be so many is just one small area.
Think about how big the top of a school desk is. The photo below is of an area much smaller than that and there are TWELVE Scalyhead Sculpins here!
The crab you see is a Pygmy Rock Crab. They usually hide out in the old shells of Giant Barnacles and do not get bigger than about 5 centimetres.
If you can find even six of them you have done very well.

Click to enlarge .

The answer for the locations of all twelve of the fish is at this link.

I am hoping now that when you think of the bottom of the Northeast Pacific Ocean, you have a better idea of just how colourful it is. To be sure, please see the pictures below.

There are NO fish to find in these photos. 🙂

Living Gems #2 – Longfin Sculpin

To follow up on yesterday’s blog about Candy-Stripe Shrimp and their association with Crimson Anemones, here’s another ambassador from my last dive who shatters the notion that these waters do not explode with colour and biodiversity.

This little Longfin Sculpin was at only 1 m depth. I saw him/her immediate when I descended and had such good fortune that the fish did not dart away. It’s usually what they do.


Longfin Sculpin = Jordania zonope to 15 cm long. May 20th, 2020 near Telegraph Cove.


May 20th, 2020 near Telegraph Cove.

JUST LOOK at the colour, the patterns, the texture . . . and the gossamer fins.

Here’s another individual from a different dive to give you a sense of the variation in colour and patterns. This colouration and banded pattern often helps them camouflage because so much of the life in these waters is brightly coloured.

June 9, 2019 Hanson Island


BUT Longfin Sculpins are among the local fish species that change colour at night. They darken to match their nocturnal surroundings so they have a better chance of   . . . seeing another day.

The photo below shows how extreme this colour change is. 

March 5th, 2013 Port Hardy.


This is known as “nocturnal protective colouration” and this adaptation is not unique to species of fishes but is also found in birds, mammals, insects, etc

The males are apparently also darker when courting females and protecting eggs. They are very territorial when egg-guarding. 


A Longfin Sculpin in “Spider Man” mode. September 9, 2011 Pearse Island. 


Further information from Dr. Milton Love’s Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific: “Young settle out of the plankton when around 2.3 to 3 cm long and then live a life where they are mostly solitary (other than to mate and egg guard) and rarely swim more than 0.5 m off the bottom. They use their pectoral fins to crawl around and hang on, even able to kind of “Spider Man” it by hanging on to vertical walls, head oriented downward. They are reportedly highly territorial with domains being from 0.3 to 0.5 metres squared / individual) . . . There have been some observations of the species cleaning the mouths of Lingcod, amid their many and very sharp teeth.”

Below, is one of Jan Kocian’s amazing captures (and cartoons) of a Longfin Sculpins serving as a cleaner fish to a Lingcod.

Scalyhead Sculpins have also been documented by as cleaner fish to Lingcod.


More often than eating snacks found on Lingcod 🙂 , Longfin Sculpins’ diet is “benthic arthropods” which include crabs, hermit crabs, isopods and shrimp. This is the diet of many sculpin species but one study found that Longfin Sculpins take bites out of their prey where other species like Scalyhead Sculpins swallow them whole.


Demetropoulos CL, Braithwaite LF, Maurer BA, Whiting D. 1990. Foraging and dietary strategies of two sublittoral cottids, Jordania zonope and Artedius harringtoniJ Fish Biol 37:19–32.

T J Buser, D L Finnegan, A P Summers, M A Kolmann, Have Niche, Will Travel. New Means of Linking Diet and Ecomorphology Reveals Niche Conservatism in Freshwater Cottoid FishesIntegrative Organismal Biology, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2019, obz023.

What’s With the Flat Face?

Seadate April 11th, 2020, Port McNeill.

Suddenly I realized the bottom of the Ocean was staring at me.

It has happened before and . . . oh how I stared back!

These flatfish or flounders are a particular marvel.

In this case, the species of flounder was a big Rock Sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata up to 58 cm long).

Be sure to read below about the “ba-boing” of their eyes! Yes, I am a scientist but that may not be a fully appreciated scientific descriptor. 🙂

Rock Sole are a “righteye flounder” species. All flounder species start off, when larvae, with eyes on either side of their heads. They are anything but “floundering”. They are astounding adapted for life on the sand. (I include photos of additional NE Pacific flatfish species at the end of this blog).

As the larvae develop, the right or left eye (depending on species) migrates across the top of the head to the other side of the body changing some skull bones in the process. This adaptation “allows flatfish to exploit a common habitat – flat sandy bottoms . . . Many fish avoid this habitat because of the lack of rocks or other features that would provide a hiding place. Flatfish can hide from predators by burrowing [and/or camouflaging], leaving only their eyes above the surface . . . the habitat is home to an abundance of prey such as worms and shrimp. With both eyes on the upper side they can use 3D vision to hunt and detect predators. There has been considerable controversy over the origin of flatfish, but recent discoveries of several fossil intermediate forms show that eye migration evolved gradually some fifty million years ago.” Source: Puget Sound Sea Life.

The series of photos show this metamorphosis (images by Dr. Alexander M. Schreiber):

Also, flatfish change colour to match their surroundings. But how is this possible when their eyes are positioned where they are?

The answer via National Geographic: “All flatfish have eyes on the end of stalks, so they pop out of the head “kind of like the eyes we saw in cartoons—ba-boing!” says George Burgess of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Thanks to those pop-up peepers, “they can’t see the bottom directly underneath them, but they can see the bottom around them,” notes Jackie Cooper of the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Once flatfish eyes get the lay of the land, they message the brain, which in turn sends signals back to the skin. This organ contains color-changing cells such as melanophores, which either expand or contract according to the background the fish is trying to match . ..”

At this time where so many are striving to educate children at home, I want for my blogs like this to be of all the more use.  For example, I am hoping the photos allow for children to reflect “if the fish looks like this, what advantages does that provide” , leading to greater deductive reasoning, connection to life in dark seas, and ultimately the appreciation that organisms are the way they are for a reason i.e. the understanding of adaptations.

More fabulous flatfish faces below.

(Note that  this NOT a comprehensive showing of ALL the flatfish / flounders of the NE Pacific Ocean. Rather, it’s just some of the species I have had the opportunity to photograph.

Some Lefteye Flounder Species
Now more commonly called the “Sand Flounders”
Family Paralichthyidae:

 Pacific Sanddab (Citharichthys sordidus to 41 cm).

Speckled Sanddab (Citharichthys stigmaeus to 17 cm). This one is only about 5 cm long. At first I thought it was an Alder leaf.

Other Righteye Flounder Species
Family Pleuronectidae:

Sand Sole (Psettichthys melanostictus to 63 cm). This little one was only ~2.7 cm. I found this little guy/ gal in a tideline and photographed it in my dive mask. See the blog I wrote about this “find” in my “Plankton Got Sole” item at this link

C-O Sole (Pleuronichthys coenosus to 36 cm). This one has more pink colouration than usual as it is living around pink coralline algae. Named the “C-O” Sole for the reverse “C” and an “O” shape on the tail. 

Another C-O Sole to give a sense of the variation in colour. A big dot in the middle of the body is typical in this species. For this individual, you will note it is purple. 

DSC08249Curlfin Sole (Pleuronichthys decurrens to 37 cm)

And more Rock Sole photos because you can never have enough:

Note that the tube worm species here is believed to be an invasive – Chaetopteridae or Spionidae (as shared by expert Leslie Harris).

Same individual as above photo.