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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • California Kelp Forest Habitat (Cold Water Quest)

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in the Eastern Pacific from about Monterey Bay and the Gulf of California.
  • Found over rocky bottoms, particularly kelp forests, at depths ranging to 180 feet (0-55 m), though most commonly 10-100 feet (~3-30 m).

Physical Characteristics

  • Adult reaches maximum length of about 3 feet (91 cm).
  • Juvenile is bright royal orange in color with prominent blue dots at the fins and the base of the tail. The lower jaw is white and most individuals have a while line running from the mouth to the caudal fin.
  • As adults, males and females are sexually dimorphic.
    • Females are smaller and sleeker than males, solid red-orange above and white ventrally. Lower jaw is bright white.
    • Males are more robust, with significant bulging foreheads. In coloration, they are black at the head and tail, with an orange midsection. Lower jaw is bright white.

Diet / Feeding

  • Consumes primarily sea urchins, crabs, lobsters and other hard-shelled prey.

Reproduction / Growth

  • During mating season (between July and September) male sheephead become territorial and defend their spawning territory.Dominant males lead the females in a circular pattern as they broadcast sperm and eggs, respectively.
  • The females spawn between 36,000 and 296,000 eggs, which hatch into larvae. 

Conservation Status

  • “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Sequential hermaphrodite (protogynous): each individual starts life as a female and then changes to male.
  • Spawning occurs most commonly during the summer months.
  • California sheephead has large, prominent teeth and can bite if handled improperly.
  • Common predators include the California.