California Sheephead

California Sheephead – Semicossyphus pulcher

Maximum length: 36in
Maximum Weight: 40.4 lb

Although sheephead are known to eat sea urchins, our female sheephead prefers shore crabs. It is known that all sheephead are born females and later on become males.  This is referred to as protogynous hermaphroditism. In an unhealthy population of sheephead, it is believed that the change is triggered by a social behavior between two females comparing mouth size. The larger-mouthed female will turn to a male. In a healthy population of sheephead, females off of Catalina Island will automatically turn male at age 6.

Adult Male Sheephead by Desmond Ho

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Sheephead are one of the few animals around Catalina Island that exhibit multiple growth patters. Juveniles will appear orange, gold, salmon or lemon-yellow with a white strip down it’s side and two black dots on the dorsal fins, one on each anal and pectoral fin and caudal peduncle. Mature females are pink with a white chin. Mature males are pink in the mid section and have a black caudal and head section with a white chin.

Female Sheephead by Desmond Ho

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Juvenile Sheephead by Michal Ross

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