Question, hotshot: Why is Chuck Norris afraid to fish?
Answer: Because he might catch a sculpin.
|A sculpin, approximately 0.5 seconds before beating the photographer senseless|
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
- 50% of the human population of Manitoba is composed of people who had to leave
British Columbia because they owe sculpins money.
- Every 5-7 years, a few sculpins get together to play cards out in the middle of the
Pacific. The whiskey flows and inevitably there's a fight, and this is what causes
- When orcas visit sculpins, they always call first to make sure everything's cool.
- The cause of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye crash? A sockeye said something
about a sculpin's mother.
OK, I made those up, so here are some non-fictitious facts. Sculpins belong to the order Scorpaeniformes, which also includes lingcod, sablefish, lumpsuckers, and the like. There are hundreds of species of sculpin- some are fresh water species, living in places like the Great Lakes and Lake Baikal, but most live in marine ecosystems, ranging from the intertidal region down to depths of hundreds of feet. The North Pacific is considered to be the stronghold of the sculpins. It's where they are thought to have originated, and it's where the largest diversity of sculpins is found today.
And yes, all anthropomorphizing aside, sculpins can be pretty tough in their own way: various species are capable of spending several hours outside of water, living in very cold water, and/or surviving the stress of being caught in trawl gear. Even the smallest sculpins can be admirably hardnosed: here on the Pacific coast, the tiny tidepool sculpin uses a variety of adaptations to survive in the harsh and highly variable world of tidal pools, which are alternately battered by waves and left exposed by low tides, and where water temperature, pH, and oxygen content can vary wildly over short amounts of time.
Their appearances can be pretty wild. Some sculpin species look like they were created by a classroom of fourth graders, wielding naught but the most neon of finger paints, all of whom had been deprived of ritalin and none of whom were allowed to look at what their neighbor was painting. How else to describe the sea raven? Other sculpins eschew flashiness for pointiness: they can have long, sharp spines that stick out of their heads, and when caught, they may make these spines protrude and may even whip their heads back and forth in a most disagreeable fashion. Oh yes, and the spines can contain poison. But of course.
Still, all the poison head spikes in the world won't do much good against the cumulative impacts of creeping human encroachment on habitat. That's why here in B.C., several of our sculpin species are at risk. Shorthead sculpin, Columbia sculpin, and the tiny Cultus pygmy sculpin, all of which are freshwater species, are listed under the Species At Risk Act (SARA). Threats to these species include altered water quality and habitat loss due to human development activities, and competition with other species including invasive species.
Out in the salt water, some marine sculpins are well-known to recreational and commercial fishermen, as they're often caught as incidental catch. This is partly due to their less-than-picky eating habits: while small sculpins stick to a diet of small seafloor invertebrates, larger ones will try to fit just about anything into their 'uge mouths, including larger invertebrates and fish - and, as I can personally attest from an experience on a longliner, the toes of size 10 Xtratuffs.
|These apparently are irresistably delicious to a large sculpin|
Photo credit: Emma Point; boot contents: John Driscoll
So, sculpins: they don't get much press and most people who know of their existence view them as a nuisance, but they're pretty cool fish that make a go of it in a tough world, and for that they deserve a bit of respect.
Or are you going to make them come over there and take that respect? The choice is yours, buddy, and you'd do well to make it easy on yourself...