The Pacific spiny lumpsucker is often described as a "ping pong ball with fins."
  • Size

    Common length of 1-3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm); maximum length of 5 inches (12.7 cm).
  • Diet

    Benthic crustaceans, mollusks and polychaete worms.
  • Range

    Pacific Ocean from the Washington coast north to the coast of the Asian mainland.
  • Habitat

    Eelgrass beds, rocky areas with kelp and other algae growth.

Physical Characteristics

  • Common length of 1-3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm); maximum length of 5 inches (12.7 cm).
  • Body is spherical in shape with a squared dorsal fin, thin rounded caudal fin, transparent pectoral fins and a fringed suction cup on the stomach. Mouth is wide with large lips and eyes are large and protruding.
  • Body is covered in plate-like structures with spiny lumps called tubercles in place of scales.
  • Body coloration varies between shades of brown and green, with orange or yellow highlights.

Animal Fact

The Pacific spiny lumpsucker's body is covered in spiny lumps called tubercles in place of scales.

Diet / Feeding

  • Carnivorous species, consuming slow moving benthic crustaceans, mollusks and polychaete worms.

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in the Pacific Ocean from the Washington coast north to the Aleutian Islands, along the Asian mainland north through the islands of Japan and into the Bering Sea.
  • Inhabits a wide range of habitats. Often found attached to sturdy objects.
    • Habitats include eelgrass beds, rocky areas with kelp and other algae growth.
    • Often found in shallow bays and around docking areas.

Reproduction & Growth

  • Breeding takes place from July to October in shallow warmer waters within sheltered deep craters in rocks.
  • Female will pressure large, spherical, orange-colored eggs into the craters and the male will then fertilize them.
  • Male will care for the eggs until hatching. Male will attach to a sturdy surface surrounding the eggs where he then oxygenates the eggs by waving water over them.
  • The male protects the eggs from any predators including crabs, sea stars and other small fishes.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.
  • There is some evidence that populations are declining in certain areas, particularly Norway, due to eggs being collected by commercial fisheries and sold as “lumpfish caviar.”
  • Due to reliance on shallow waters for breeding, this species may be susceptible to rising seawaters and increases in water temperature from climate changes in the Pacific Northwest.

Additional Information

  • Often described as a “ping-pong ball with fins.”
  • Popular with SCUBA divers because many specimens will eat out of their hand.
  • Slow and inefficient swimmers because of spherical shape and small fins.
  • Suction disk helps this species overcome the lack of a gas bladder and aids in swimming abilities.
  • Excellent at camouflaging to avoid detection by predators.
  • Known predators include Pacific cod, sablefish and lance fish.

Sources

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