Like a man wearing a sharp-looking tie, this male tubesnout (Aulorhynchus flavidus) proudly displays its fluorescent blue snout to attract a female. The blue snout complements its bright orange pelvic fins, which are also used to catch the eye of a potential mate.
Tubesnouts are found along the west coast of North America from Alaska to Mexico, just beneath the tide. When spring is in full swing, so is their courtship behaviour.
Male tubesnouts display their vivid colours with the hope that they’ll have the chance to pass on their genes, all while fending off other males from their seaweed (see video below). Once a male tubesnout successfully entices a female, she will lay small clusters of amber-coloured eggs on the seaweed (especially in wireweed, Sargassum mutica).
The video below was taken here at the Aquarium, in the Whytecliff Park exhibit of the B.C. Coast gallery. The tubesnouts on exhibit have been bred and raised here, and they’re the 12th and 13th generation of tubesnouts here. You can see the tubesnouts courting in this exhibit every spring.
These courtship and breeding behaviours have been carefully documented by Vancouver Aquarium scientist Dr. Jeff Marliave for decades. He believes that tubesnouts are able to withstand the consequences of their inbreeding because even in their natural habitat, tubesnout babies (larvae) grow up in the same area, unlike other fish species whose larvae drift with the current.
Unlike most species, inbreeding isn’t all bad for this type of fish. The natural selection of young tubesnouts that survive from mating siblings has eliminated bad gene combinations. Survival of the fittest indeed!