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photo© 2010 Janna Nichols
Common Names: Slender-nosed Pipefish
Description: The Bay pipefish is
a long and thin, pale green to dark green or brown fish. They have bony
rings rather than scales. They are related to the sea horse and look
like a sea horse that has been straightened out. Bay pipefish have a
tube-like snout with their very small mouth at the end. They lack pelvic
fins and their pectoral and dorsal fins are very small. Their caudal
or tail fin is small and fan like. The females grow larger than the
males. Females have an anal fin whereas males do not. Males however
have a abdominal brood pouch where they brood the young.
Range: Bay pipefish can be found
from Prince William Sound, Alaska down the Pacific coast to Baja California
(northern Mexico). Bay pipefish are the only species of pipefish found
north of California.
Size: Bay pipefish can reach a maximum
of approximately 13 inches long, however 4 - 7 inches is more typical.
Hangouts/Habitat: Bay pipefish like
to hang out in eelgrass or algae beds in shallow warmer water. They
are slow swimmers and rely upon camouflage. They will hang parallel
to eelgrass leaves.
Depth: Bay pipefish are typically
found in the low intertidal zone, though they can be found to 50 feet.
Likes to munch on: Bay pipefish
eat tiny crustaceans by sucking them into their small mouth from some
distance away rather than biting.
ID Clues: Bay pipefish are a rarer
find, and within Oregon, Washington or British Columbia are the only
pipefish that you will find. As you travel south to California, bay
pipefish can be confused with barred pipefish (Syngnathus auliscus).
However the barred pipefish has a shorter snout, and only 14-16 body
rings whereas the bay pipefish has 17-20 body rings (take a good close
up to count those rings)
Other Facts: The males bear live
young that are up to 3/4 inch long. The female transfers the fertilized
eggs to the male's brood pouch. Male pipefish carry up to 900 developing
young for several weeks.
Contributed by Claude Nichols, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
photo© 2010 Nick Brown
Other Common Names:
Pinto Abalone, Kamchatka abalone, Alaska abalone
Description: The Northern abalone
sports a relatively thin elongated oval shell that varies in color from
a mottled reddish brown to green. There are usually between 3 to 6 open
holes on one side of the shell that permits water flow over the gills
and enables waste products to be extruded. The interior of the shell
is a pearly iridescent white. Abalones are often hidden in a shroud
of various encrusting algae and other marine life making it more difficult
for the fastidious REEF surveyor to spot.
Range: Northern abalone can be found
from Sitka Alaska down the Pacific coast to Baja California (northern
Size: Northern abalone can reach
a maximum of approximately 7 inches (18cm) across.
Hangouts/Habitat: Northern abalone
usually prefer firm rocky substrate with moderate water exchange. They
can usually be found near kelp hiding under cracks or crevasses. Juvenile
abalone have even been found hiding under the spiny protection of sea
Depth: Historically the northern
abalone has been found in the low intertidal zone, though currently
they are usually only found below 10ft down to approximately 116ft.
Likes to munch on:
The northern abalone dines on an assortment of red and brown
ID Clues: If you're diving within
Washington or British Columbia and you're lucky enough to find an abalone,
most likely it will be a northern abalone. If you're diving farther
south you might stumble upon red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) territory.
Northern and red abalone can be differentiated by observing the color
of their epipodial tentacles (the tiny tentacles that are protruding
from the open holes in its shell). The red abalone has black tentacles
while the northern abalone has greenish brown tentacles. The red abalone
has a smooth shell margin while the northern abalone has a scalloped
and rough margin. Another abalone presumably native to the northwest
though rare is the flat abalone (Haliotis walallensis). The flat abalone
has yellowish to green epipodial tentacles and relatively smooth shell
Other Facts: Though historically
common in our region northern abalone populations have been diminished
greatly. So much so that they are currently listed as threatened by
the Canadian Federal Government and a Species of Concern by the US Federal
Government. Abalone are broadcast spawners that must be in relative
close proximity to each other to successfully reproduce. Because of
their current small population size, largely due to previous commercial
and recreational harvest along with illegal poaching, they are unable
to reproduce effectively and therefore their population size continues
to decrease. Hopefully current efforts to increase population sizes
are successful which includes releasing hatchery reared abalone into
More info: www.pintoabalone.org
by Nick Brown, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
photo© 2010 Georgia Arrow
Shortnose Chimaera family
Names: Rabbitfish, Spookfish, Goatfish, Water Hare
Description: Grey or brown with
numerous white spots and silver underside. Large bulky snout, small
mouth with forward-directed teeth, long tapering tail. Commonly have
iridescent tints of blue, green or gold. Unscaled smooth skin. Fins
grey and somewhat transparent. Males have club-like appendage between
eyes and claspers by ventral fins.
Color: Shades of brown or grey with
pale underbelly. Grey, see-through fins.
Range: Common northern California
to British Columbia: occasional north to southeastern Alaska and south
to southern California. Isolated population in the Gulf of California.
Size: 8-28", maximum 39"
Hangouts/Habitat: Inhabit sandy
and muddy bottoms, and occasionally near rocky reefs.
Depth: 0-3,000 feet. Most commonly
found in shallow waters, between 15-65 feet in northern part of range,
and deeper to the south.
Wary; generally move away from divers. Slow non-threatening approach
sometimes allows a close view. Seem to be less shy at night although
it probably is more that they are attracted to, blinded by, and disoriented
by divers' lights and scurry about unpredictably. Be careful to avoid
foredorsal spine which is mildly toxic and can inflict a nasty, painful
wound even through 5mm gloves.
Biggest Enemy: Humans. Often ends
up as bycatch particulary from deep dragging trawlers and deep setting
ID Clues: Nothing else looks like
it. It gracefully "flies" along propelled by bird-like sweeps
of its pectoral fins. Huge glassy eye which can look blue or green and
which reflects a dive light in a long shaft of light.
Other Cool Facts: Cartilaginous
fish, closely related to sharks and rays.
by Georgia Arrow, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 Rhoda Green
Names: Kelp sea-perch, Kelp surfperch, brown perch, or brown
sea perch, to make a name out of the to translate its scientific name,
into a name my guess would sound like a snaffled short sailed perch.
Description: from head to tail:
kind of a short snout, with an indented, concave, forehead, nape dipping
up to a hump on the back sporting a "short sail" dorsal fin,
which curves quickly down to the base of the tail. Also belly area drops
lower creating a short stocky body. The tail is forked tail
Color: brown, copper, orange
Range: a subtropical fish in the
Northeast Pacific - Baja to Alaska.
Size: This little fishy, as an adult
is usually less than the size of my hand. The length is about double
the height and has next to no width.
Hangouts/Habitat: inshore, jetties,
kelp beds, pilings, rocky reefs, Being a pelagic fish it is found in
the water column usually around kelp, especially giant kelp canopy and
red seaweeds for camouflage and foraging.
Behavior: These fish seem to have
an agenda that doesn't involve any time to be curious or galk at humans.
It has a twitchy, jerky movement, giving it its snaffled appearance.
Can be found solo or with others and may aggregate.
Biggest Enemy: Sarda chiliensis,
mackerel, tuna, bonita
ID Clues: lateral line curved following
the arch of the dorsal. Scales above the lateral line more distinct.
A few arbitrary white blotches along midsection. Front dorsal fin never
completely up, thus short sailed.
Other Cool Facts: a planktivore,
it eats parasites and crustations thus a cleaner fish enjoying a parasite
meal of a fish instead of being their food. Viviparous, spawning fall-
early winter. Not to be confused with kelp fish or perching kelp.
by Rhoda Green, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 Todd Cliff
Names: Pink Branching Hydrocoral
Description: Pink Hydrocoral is
an upright branching colony.
Color: Orange to pink
Range: Alaska to Oregon
Size: Colonies up to 3 inches high
and carpeted up to 4" wide or more.
Hangouts/Habitat: High current swept
areas on rocks.
Depth: Shallow subtidal to over
30 feet in depth.
ID Clues: Pink Hydrocoral is easy
to identify from its pink coloration and antler like branches.
Other Cool Facts: Hydrocorals are
formed by a calcareous skeleton and should not be confused with true
corals. It takes 20 or more years for a colony to grow to heights of
by Todd Cliff, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 Janna Nichols
This large mouth sculpin has a long snout and a head that tapers down
to its pectoral fin. It has four dark bars running downward along with
a long smooth spine extending from its upper check along with variable
patches and saddles.
Color: Primarily olive to gray in
color, occasionally displays blotches of white to earth tones allowing
it to blend into its environment.
Range: Bering Sea to Puget Sound
and also to northern Japan.
Size: The Great Sculpin is as its
name suggests is one of the largest sculpins encountered in the Pacific
Northwest. The length of it reaches up to a maximum of 30 inches long,
but typically runs between 14 to 20 inches.
Hangouts/Habitat: Sandy, silty and
muddy bottoms of bays, wharves, pilings and jetties.
Depth: It is found in the intertidal
zone to 800 feet.
Behavior: Hangs out on the bottom
lying motionless looking for smaller fish to prey on. It ambushes it
prey in this way when a meal is within its reach.
ID Clues: Identifying the Great
Sculpin many times is confused with the similar looking Buffalo Sculpin.
The more colorful Buffalo Sculpin has a rounder, bulbous head and is
shorter in length.
Other Cool Facts: The Great Sculpin
make "great" photo subjects, since they never seem to move
Contributed by Todd Cliff, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 Janna Nichols
names: Pacific sand dollar, west coast sand dollar, sea cookie
Sand dollars are essentially flat sea urchins with extremely short spines.
The outer "shell", called a test, is fairly circular in outline
and has a five-petal flower pattern which is most obvious when the animal
is dead and bleached. The pattern is formed from a series of pores from
which tube feet extend in the living animal.
Usually a very dark blackish purple; sometimes gray or dark brown.
Found from Juneau, Alaska to northern Baja California, Mexico.
Diameter to about 4 inches (100 mm).
As the common name suggests, they live in sandy areas, usually in large
aggregations. They are found both in exposed areas on the outer coast
and in the fully protected, calm waters of southern Puget Sound.
Found from the mid-intertidal to nearly 300 ft (90 m).
enemy: Sand dollars are unpalatable to most predators. The
ratio of edible tissue to skeleton is very low, and once the test is
breached there are internal partitions that make it difficult to reach
much tissue without a lot of additional effort. The giant pink star
preys on them and sand dollars will quickly bury themselves when they
smell this star.
Sunflower stars also eat them, graceful Cancer crabs often damage the
edges of tests, and sea gulls will sometimes peck through the top of
the test. California sheephead and starry flounder are known to feed
on them, and there are some areas where they comprise a large part of
the diet of wolf eels.
clues: This is the only sand dollar known to occur from northern
British Columbia through central California. It can be distinguished
from other species at either end of its range by the five-petal flower
pattern on the test, which is off-center and asymmetrical instead of
in the middle.
facts: Dendraster is a filter feeder, standing on edge in
the sand and capturing small organisms and particles of detritus from
Larval sand dollars settle within adult beds for protection, and baby
sand dollars selectively swallow heavier sand grains, probably to serve
as a 'weight belt' to help them maintain position (divers - don't try
density of adult beds can be astounding- over 500 per square yard- and
there is a bed off Long Beach on the Washington coast that is over 20
Contributed by Dr. Greg Jensen, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 Janna Nichols
Right Eye Flounder Family
Names: Grindstone, Leatherjacket, California or Diamond Flounder
Description: One of the easier flatfish
to identify, the Starry Flounder has a series of prominent dark bands
on the dorsal, anal & tail fins. It has an oval shaped body and
a slightly rounded tail.
Color: Shades of brown and gray.
The bars are dark alternating with cream/yellow/orange.
Range: Southern CA to the Arctic
coast. Also from the Bering straight to Southern Japan.
Size: Generally 1' - 2 1/2', max
is 3 feet & 20 lbs
bottoms, often hangout near eelgrass beds.
Depth: 0 - 1,200' but they typically
are found shallow in the 0 - 150' range.
Behavior: Tends to live on the bottom,
often partially or completely covered with sand/silt/mud. Juveniles
can be found in the intertidal zone.
ID Clues: The bars are the biggest
clues, right vs. left sided is not necessarily a good clue. Also look
for starry shaped rough plates on the eyed side of the fish.
Other Cool Facts: Even though this
is in the "right eyed flounder" family, it isn't always "right
eyed"! In the local area - on the coasts of Washington, Oregon
and California - there is a 50 - 50 split of right/left eyed. In the
area around Alaska, the split is 70/30 right to left..... in Japan,
they are ALL left eyed! In other words, look at the other ID clues as
right vs. left eyed can mislead you on this one.
Contributed by Heidi Wilken, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 Peter Mieras
name: Hermissenda crassicornis
name: Opalescent nudibranch
Other names: Horned Aeolid, Opalescent
sea slug, opalescent aeolid, (thick or long) horned nudibranch, long
horned hemissenda, hermissenda nudibranch.
Description: This nudibranch has
usually bright cerata that have orange and white bands. In some variety
the cerata are more dull brown with white tips or white stripes run
up the cerata. In the middle of the dorsum (back) bright orange highlights
occur and a blue line can be observed at the dorsal surface of the oral
tentacles. A similar thin pale blue line can be seen around the base
of the body.
Range: Sea of Japan, from Alaska
down to Mexico
Size: mostly around 1-2"(25-50mm)
but occasionally up to 3" (75mm)
Hangouts/Habitat: The opalescent
nudibranch prefers rocky areas or hard substrate in general. Since it
feeds on hydroids and other aeolids you can find this species in areas
where hydroids are common.
Depth: intertidal to ± 110
feet (36 meters)
Behavior: Feeds on hydroids by grazing
with its radulae ( a file like structure, that consists of many chitinous
teeth). Usually fairly static but can move with surprising speed if
Biggest Enemy: Sunflower starfish
and other opalescent nudibranch
ID Clues: orange white banded cerata,
typical pale blue colour on the top of the front tentacles
Other Cool Facts: Member of the
suborder Aeolidina, named after the Greek god of the wind Aeolius. The
cerata contain nematocysts ( stinging cells) collected from the hydroids
and sea anemones they feed on. When they collect the immature stinging
cells they pass them unharmed through their digestive system to the
tips of their cerata. Here the stinging cells mature and are used for
the defence of the nudibranch.
Opalescent nudibranchs are aggressive fighters. When two of them meet
head-to-head, they're likely to get into a biting battle. If one meets
the tail of another and gets the first bite, it usually wins the battle
and eats the loser.
opalescent nudibranchs live less than one year, they have to grow and
reproduce quickly-they can't lose time looking for a mate. A meeting
between two or more can be a mutual mating session, since these creatures
are hermaphroditic (they have both male and female sexual organs). Later,
each lays an egg string in narrow coils that looks like tiny sausage
links. They attach their eggs to eelgrass and algae.
Large fluctuations in the population due to the availability of their
food source are observed. This particular species is a popular subject
for underwater photographers and videographers.
info at: http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Hermissenda#General_Information
Contributed by Peter Mieras, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 Jeanne Luce
Names: Yellowstripe Rockfish, Yellowspotted Rockfish
Description/Color: Bluish black
to black with yellow spots and blotches.
Range: Common southeast Alaska to
California; occasional to rare northern and central California
Size: 8-14 in, max 17 in
Hangouts/Habitat: Rocky inshore
areas along exposed coastlines. Lurk in caves and crevices.
Depth: 12-400 ft
Behavior: China Rockfish generally
rest on bottom propped up by their fins. When away from hole, they swim
near bottom. Solitary. Their territories are apparently small, with
a study off Vancouver Island finding Chinas moving only within 10 m
(33 ft). They feed on benthic organisms, including brittle stars, chitons,
and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. Unafraid and curious; china
rockfish often allow close view when approached with slow nonthreatening
Humans. This species of rockfish, like many others, has a declining
wild population as they are highly esteemed as one of the tastiest rockfish.
They have been popular for commercial fishing since the 19th century.
During the 1930s, Chinas sold for twice as much as any other rockfish
except the black-and-yellow rockfish, and for more than any other kind
of finfish. They are today popular in Asia, often being sold alive.
Yellow speckles on head and body, yellow "swoosh" from
foredorsal fin that curves to run length of lateral line to tail.
Cool Facts: The species epithet
nebulosus is Latin for "clouded". Although Jordan and Evermann
promoted the common name "yellowspotted rockfish", the "China"
name has persisted, due to a perceived preference by persons of Chinese
ancestry living in central California.
Contributed by Jeanne Luce, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 MaryJo Adams
Feather Duster Worm
Northern feather duster worm
Other names: Plume worm, parchment
Description: Polychaete worms inhabiting
leathery or parchment appearing tubes and extending to form plumes with
feather duster appearance. This species often forms large aggregations
but may also be found as solitary individuals.
Color: Plume has alternating bands
of maroon and dark green
Range: Alaska to California
Size: Tubes reach a length of 24
inches and diameter of ½ inch. The plume is up to 2.4 inches
Hangouts/Habitat: Found on floats,
pilings, and rocky areas.
Depth: Intertidal to 100 feet
Behavior: Has light sensing structures
and if a shadow falls across it, the plume will zip back into its tube
in the blink of an eye.
ID clues: There are other similar
appearing sabellid tubeworms with parchment like tubes and feathery
plumes so look for tubes with a diameter slightly larger than that of
a pencil and the maroon/dark green banding on the plumes.
Contributed by Mary Jo Adams, REEF PNW AAT, level 5
to the top
photo© 2010 Janna Nichols
2010 Janna Nichols
Rockfish for both
Sebastes mystinus and ??
It's a two-for-one special this month! Scientists have become aware
that there are TWO species of what has been commonly called the Blue
Rockfish. They are in the process of describing and naming the two species
now. REEF divers are needed to help determine the ranges/depths, etc.
of these two species. For REEF surveys, we're calling the fish shown
in Photo #1 a Blue Sided Rockfish, and Photo #2 depicts a Blue
Color: Both are bluish gray with
Range: Northern Baja to Southern
Alaska. I have seen the Blue Blotched Rockfish when diving in Monterey,
California, and the Blue Sided when diving in Washington and BC. Other
divers have seen both occur in Oregon. Fishermen are finding both species
in many areas.
Size: Up to 21" long. Usually
up to 18".
Hangouts/Habitat: In Monterey, California
area, I've seen schools of Blue Blotched Rockfish hanging out in the
kelp in midwater. In Neah Bay and up into BC, I've seen Blue Sided Rockfish
always intermixed in schools of Black Rockfish, hanging out in kelp
forests or near kelpy areas.
Depth: I usually see both schooling
in less than 40 feet of water, but can be found to depths to 300 feet.
Behavior: Both appear to be schooling
fish and will allow a closer look if you watch your buoyancy and move
slowly. Let them come to you by staying very still.
Growth: Grow to be about 40 years
old. Males and females are sexually mature at about 10 years old (about
14" long at that age). Females are larger than males at any given
Comments: Blue Rockfish stay in
one specific area their entire lives. They can be easily overfished
by partyboats, private vessels and spearfishers.
I.D. Clues: Look for the stripes
on the forehead on both species.
blue base color
patterns on side
shape more symmetrical and rounded
solid coloration of body
line more prominent
more elongated, flatter underside
jaw juts out more
Contributed by Janna Nichols, REEF PNW AAT, level 5