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Fish Identification Guide - 20 Species of Puget Sound & the Northwestern USA


13 of 20

Scalyhead Sculpin
a sculpin fish on a seattle scuba dive.

Scalyhead sculpin, Artedius harringtoni, have bright orange gills.

© Lynne Flaherty

Scalyhead sculpin, Artedius harringtoni, are masters of disguise, blending in flawlessly with algae, sand, rocks, sponges and coral. These fish lay flat on the bottom and change their colors to match the environment. Scalyhead sculpin can pale or darken, and may even adjust their patterns for camouflage. At times, iridescent blue squiggles, shiny red dots or dark, thick bars are visible on the the fish's body.

Regardless of the colors that a scalyhead sculpin chooses to wear, the fish may be identified by its bright orange gills. Several orange lines run through the scalyhead sculpins' eyes, and cirri (small branching appendages) are visible on its forehead. Observant divers may also spot tiny, fleshy protrusions beginning at the fish's head and continuing in a row down its body. The bellies of the scalyhead sculpin have round, pale spots.

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