With large, prominent teeth, the California sheephead feeds mostly on sea urchins, crabs, lobsters and other hard-shelled prey.
  • Size

    3 feet (91 cm)
  • Diet

    Sea urchins, crabs, lobsters and other hard-shelled prey
  • Range

    Eastern Pacific from about Monterey Bay and the Gulf of California
  • Habitat

    Rocky bottoms, particularly kelp forests

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.

Animal Fact

California sheephead has large, prominent teeth and can bite if handled improperly.

Diet / Feeding

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

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).

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.
  • Spawning occurs most commonly during the summer months.

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.
  • California sheephead has large, prominent teeth and can bite if handled improperly.
  • Common predators include harbor seals, California sea lions and various sea bird species.

Sources

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