You’ve spotted the spotted ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei)! This curious creature is a distant relative of sharks, with whom the ratfish shares a skeleton made of cartilage! Although sharks can have thousands of teeth in their lifetime, the ratfish has only 6 teeth in it’s downturned mouth. It uses these teeth to chomp and crush clams and crabs it finds on the seafloor. The spine on the ratfish’s dorsal fin can deliver a poisonous sting to predators, and that shimmering stripe along it’s side is called the lateral line and it is used as an electroreceptor to detect prey!
Although they look similar, this little fella isn’t a jellyfish, it’s a sea slug!
It uses its’ hood, lined with tentacles to catch tiny food particles and plankton floating by in the water.
Those little flaps that look like ears on the hood are called rhinophores and the hooded nudibranch uses them to smell it’s prey, and it’s predators.
If it’s threatened it can detach from it’s hood and swim away, just like a lizard dropping it’s tail.
This little guy is also a girl! Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic which means they have both male and female reproductive organs.
This purple sea (Pisaster ochraceus) star can be found in a variety of colours! Further south in Washington and Oregon the ochre variety is more prevalent, and up here on Vancouver Island purple is far more common.
This little fella looks like Tarzan swinging on a rope! It's very common to find these sea stars on dock pilings and rocky shores where they hunt for mussels, barnacles, limpets and snails. On their underside they have thousands of tiny tube feet which they control with their hydro-vasuclar system (which works just like the hydraulic systems on machines!)They have a yellow spot on the top and centre called the madroporite which is the organ they use to control this system.
With a tight grip they can open a muscle, climb on top of it and then evert (eject) their stomachs to digest their food outside of their bodies! Not the most polite of dinner guests!
Recently they have been subject to a massive die-off event due to Sea Star Wasting Syndrome which is causing them to literally melt into goo!
Read more about it on our site here: Sea Star Wasting Syndrome
Photo: Andrew Murgatroyd
We're happy to debut our new Vimeo page on the 4th day of fishmas with one of my favorite fish:
The Grunt Sculpin!
This little dude is not only super cute he has some amazing adaptations to life on the ocean floor. For one, the Grunt Sculpin (Rhamphocottus richardsonii) uses his pectoral fins like legs to scoot across the ocean floor! If you didn't notice, he doesn't really look all that much like a fish at all. When threatened he can dive headfirst into an abandoned giant acorn barnacle shell and wave his tail to resemble a feeding barnacle. Sneaky Sneaky!
Three Sea Nettles
and a Hermit Crab
in a Snail Shell!
Watch out! These Sea-Nettles can be naughty not nice! They use stinging cells called nematocysts on their long streaming tentacles to stun small fish, crustaceans and plankton (and even unlucky humans!)
They are commonly seen drifting through the Salish Sea or washed up on beaches.
Sea-Nettles can get quite big, with bells 30cm in diameter and tentacles extending for several feet.
The white "tentacles" are actually called "oral arms" and are used to bring food to the jellyfish's mouth, on the the underside of the bell.
On the second day of Fish-Mas my true love gave to me:
Two wolf eels
(and a hermit crab in a snail shell)
These juvenile wolf eels (Anarrhichthys ocellatus) might look scary, but SCUBA divers know that they are some of the friendliest fish in the sea! Often pairs of wolf-eels will mate for life! They inhabit small caves called dens and their favourite food is the spiny sea-urchin. Although they are called wolf-eels, they are not true eels! They are elongated eel-like fish, but they are not of the order of eels (Anguilliformes).
This little guy is only about 5cm long and he's hoping for some of his favourite food in his stocking this year!
Can you guess what he eats?
Dead plants and animals!
And I thought my socks smelled bad! I'm keeping his stocking far away from the fireplace.
Although hermit crabs are most often found in shallow intertidal areas they can live at depths of over 600m
Hermit crabs don't grow their own shells. Instead they live in snail shells they find on the sea floor. Once they outgrow their shell it's time for them to search for a new bigger one. When they are threatened by a predator they withdraw inside their shell and use their claws to shut the door.
This one looks like he's got a sack full of toys and if you look very carefully you'll see the small anemone hitching a ride on his shell!
Photo: Andrew Murgatroyd
Welcome to the 12 days of fish-mas gallery!
At Christmas time in 2013 I made this gallery while working at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre!