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Sailfin Sculpin Nautichthys oculofasciatus


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Sailfin Sculpin
credit: David Csepp

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Family: Cottidae, Sculpins view all from this family

Description The sailfin sculpin (Nautichthys oculofasciatus, lit. "eye-banded sailor fish") is a species of scorpaeniform marine fish in the sea raven family Hemitripteridae, native to the eastern Pacific Ocean from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska to San Miguel Island off southern California. Named for its elongated, sail-like first dorsal fin, the sailfin sculpin is a popular subject of public aquaria; it is of no interest to commercial fishery.

Of the typical cottoid body plan, the sailfin sculpin is noted for its conspicuous first dorsal fin dominated by the first four spines, of approximately equal length. The overall body colour is variable, from yellow-brown to yellow-gray; darker bands on the body and red flecks and diagonal streaks may be present on the fins. A distinct, dark band runs through the eye. Maximum recorded length for the species is 20 cm. Highly modified ctenoid scales give the skin a velvety texture.

According to FishBase, a variant of sailfin sculpin occurs in Knight Inlet, British Columbia: the 'sail' of the first dorsal fin is described as appearing "frail" and "more like a mast," and is dominated by the II, III, and I spines rather than the first four spines.

Dimensions Up to 8" (20 cm).

Habitat Ocean or bay shallows.

Range California, Northwest, Western Canada, Alaska.