Wednesday 1 August 2012

Henfish aka THE Lumpsucker

Image: Biopix: JC Schou
Cyclopterus lumpus
We all love big, ugly fish, right? How would we know the small and beautiful without them? You need a few ogres around or you won't recognise a pixie when you see it. I think...

Image: Biopix: JC Schou
I don't know if the sea ever needed a hen to call its own, but it has one regardless. It's the Henfish or Sea Hen, also known as the Lumpfish or Lumpsucker.

It's the only species in the genus Cyclopterus and its specific name is lumpus! The Henfish also lends its generic name to the whole Lumpfish family: Cyclopteridae.

Basically, this is the original Lumpsucker!

We've seen another Lumpsucker before, the cute, little Spiny Pacific one. Now we get to see what it's like on the other side of the Adorable Scale.

Image: Biopix: JC Schou
It's quite a sight! 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 feet) of potato chunkiness in greyscale.

The Henfish has the unrefined features and protruding eyes we could once confidently expect of criminals. That was back in the old days, when you could easily judge someone's soul by the shape of their nose and hoodlums couldn't legally afford to quaff perfectly good wine.

On their back is a dorsal fin oddly covered in thick skin. Good! We can gossip about them behind their back and they won't mind too much. They lack scales but have bony lumps all over the body instead, and several rows of even bigger lumps running from head to tail.

Image: Biopix: JC Schou
If the "Lump" part of Lumpsucker comes from their appearance, then the Henfish earns it in abundance. It looks like a great, big lump composed entirely of variously sized lumps. They also got the "sucker" part down; their ventral fins are modified into a disk that lets them stick onto rocks.

Indeed, you will normally find this fish near rocks on the sea floor, feasting on small fish, crustaceans, worms and jellyfish.

They inhabit a cold, north Atlantic range from North America to Greenland, Scandinavia and down to Spain, usually at depths of 50 to 300 m (165 to 985 ft). The shallow end is preferred in summer, and they swim down for the winter. One individual went a bit far and was spotted a whopping 868 m (2,848 ft) deep!

You wouldn't know it to look at them, but these guys can migrate over 100 km (62 miles) between feeding grounds and spawning grounds. Henfish have much more energy and stamina than you'd expect.

Come mating time, males acquire a red or orange belly and are tasked with protecting a rocky nest of some 300,000 eggs for a month or two.

Image: Vidar A via Flickr
Since only the belly is meant to turn red, I can only assume this fellow is a sex beast. Henfish have much more energy and stamina than you'd expect.


TexWisGirl said...

actually quite cute for a lumpy beast. :)

Crunchy said...

I read an article that explains why their stomachs change color during mating time. Turns out part of their mating ritual requires the female to give the male a mean pinkbelly with those slappy fins of hers.

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: I should have known you'd say that!

@Crunchy: Ha! I guess that "sex beast" got a real beating then!

Gio. Ve. said...

The submarine creatures are endlessly surprising...
All the best and congratulations.

Joseph JG said...

They sure are! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I think it is called "henfish" because it gives you delicious eggs! The male wants to protect them but... tough luck.

Joseph JG said...

Ah, of course! I hadn't even thought of that!