If you're interested in using any of these photographs in any way, please contact me. Send an e-mail to naturalhistoryphotos(at)gmail.com. Thanks!

Friday, December 16, 2016

A perfect match

A few days ago, Eric spotted this wonderful sculpin in the rocky intertidal zone.

I haven't learned how to identify the different species of intertidal sculpins yet, but this one is too beautiful not to share, even though I'm not sure which species it is.

Here's a close-up — note the mottled pink splotches on the body and the fins that appear to mimic coralline algae:

The camouflage is especially striking when the sculpin is viewed among the coralline algae growing on the rocks:


Kristin Aquilino said...

Way cool!

John W. Wall said...

Great find and fantastic camo. Assuming that isn't actually coralline algae on the sculpin, you've got to wonder what intelligence (can fish skin be "intelligent"?) or property of nature devised such mimicry. Is random mutation still the dominant paradigm for such things?

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, John!

Eric and I have also been wondering about some of the details behind the remarkable camouflage of this sculpin. It might take a little while, but I'll do some more research and will post any updates if I learn anything. My guess would be that it happens via natural selection -- i.e., fish that have the genes that produce this color pattern survive well in these habitats and pass those genes on to their offspring. I'm doubtful that an individual fish changes color so dramatically to match its background (e.g., like an octopus), but I could be wrong!