When C-O Sole’s are first born they look like any other fish. But over time they go through a crazy metamorphosis that allows them to be one truly unique fish found in the waters of Catalina. If you were to break C-O Sole’s scientific name, Pleuronicthyes coenosus, down you would find that in Greek Pleuronicthys translates into “side” “fish” while coenosus translates to the Latin word “muddy.” This accurately describes the physical appearance of this fish.
Over time C-O Sole’s will go through a major transformation. As they grow older they begin to swim at an angle, either leaning more towards the right or more towards the left. But that’s not all! As they begin to swim more and more at an angle the eye that is found on the side facing down begins to force itself around their skull until it completely travels to the opposite side of their head. Soon after this eye movement occurs the C-O Sole will finish its transformation and spend the rest of its life as a flat fish.
But why go through all that effort? By going through this transformation C-O Sole’s have developed some amazingly unique features. First off their ability to camouflage is incredible! Being super flat allows them to fully cover themselves with sand and completely blend into their surroundings. And because both eyes are located on top of their head they have excellent vision, even when completely buried in sand. Their ability to hide within the sand is extremely beneficial when trying to escape the dangers found throughout the ocean.
C-O Sole’s are also excellent predators as well! They utilize their amazing camouflage skills to sneak up on their potential prey and use an ambush style technique.
The California Scorpionfish gets its name from its sharp, venomous dorsal spines. It is a member of the family Scopaenidae, which includes some of the most venomous fish species in the world, like the lionfish. The scorpionfish’s spotted body and spiny appearance make it perfectly suited to blending in with the rocks and algae on the bottom of the ocean floor, and during the day they are most commonly found hiding inside rock crevices. At night, they emerge from the rocks to hunt and are voracious predators, skimming along the bottom of the ocean floor in search of crabs, fish, and even octopus!
Predators of the scorpionfish must face the wrath of the pressurized venom glands found inside its dorsal spines. Oddly enough, the California two-spot octopus, while sometimes preyed upon by scorpionfish, is also one of its biggest predators. The octopus’ soft body protects it from getting injured by the fish’s sharp spines. Other predators of the scorpionfish include sharks and rays. There is also a small commercial fishery for scorpionfish in California, as meat from the fish can be quite tasty if the venom sacks are removed correctly. The venom can produce symptoms similar to a rattlesnake bite in some people, so it is important to be cautious if you catch one while fishing.
Because scorpionfish are so good at camouflage, they will often employ ambush techniques to catch their prey, waiting in rock crevices, then quickly lunging out at the animals that pass by. They open their cavernous jaws and expand their buccal cavity to turn their mouth into a large vacuum cleaner that sucks up prey. Even though scorpionfish do swim more actively at nighttime, it is rare to see them leave the bottom of the seafloor. They lack a swim bladder, which means they are unable to control their buoyancy up and down the water column as most other bony fish can. Instead, their stone-like appearance and sedentary ways make them perfect inhabitants of the intertidal zone’s rocky bottom.
Camouflage is one of the most widely used adaptations by animals to both hide from predators and to surprise prey. There are many different types of camouflage including concealing coloration, disguise, disruptive coloration, and mimicry. There are many different fish we see hear at CIMI that give us great examples of camouflage. Cabezon fish are a prime example of how camouflage is used. The coloration of a Cabezon allows it to perch motionless on rocks and algae without being seen. Prey or predator could be a foot away and still not see it. This advantage point allows for quick ambush. Other fish such as Scorpionfish have encrusted algae on their bodies to better camouflage in their surroundings. Flat fish like Halibut and CO Turbots blend in with the sandy ocean floor and also cover themselves to better hide while waiting to ambush.
Here at CIMI we wanted to try and mimic the Cabezon fish strategy. Toyon Bay CIMI instructor Trevor waited in areas that allowed him to blend in while he waited for passing instructors. Each passing instructor got a scare but also a great laugh. It’s a good thing this was not the real predator vs. prey or Trevor would have gotten them all. He also would have had a full tummy.
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