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It’s called a “lumpfish” (Cyclopterus lumpus), but make no mistake – this Arctic fish is more than just a lump in the water. In fact, it can swim fairly quickly over a short distance using strong tail strokes. Its “body design, large size and big eyes” are just some of the reasons why Christine Martinello, a B.C. Waters biologist at the Vancouver Aquarium, chose this animal as the “Staff Pick of the Month.”

Christine Martinello, B.C. Waters biologist at the Vancouver Aquarium

Christine says she feels lucky that she has a chance to even see these animals. Indeed, there aren’t many aquariums in the world that display Arctic species, and if you want to see them in their natural habitat you’d have to be willing to travel a long distance and spend a lot of money.

A much easier (and more economical) way to see them, for those of us living in North America’s southern regions, is to head to the Canaccord Financial Exploration Gallery at the Aquarium. The lumpfish does live in the northern Atlantic, however, so it may be more familiar to East Coasters and northern Europeans – lumpfish caviar anyone?

Christine says she takes a moment every day to observe these fish on her way to the exhibits she manages. They’re prominently displayed in a beautiful aquarium specifically designed to make it look like the sunlight is filtering through the surface of the Arctic Ocean.

The lumpfish has a unique adaptation that allows it to cling to rocks, seaweed and even the exhibit window. In a fish like a salmon, the bottom (pelvic) fins are shaped to stabilize the fish as it swims (almost like the keel on a sailboat). But the lumpfish’s pelvic fins are shaped like a suction cup instead, allowing it to hang on to objects. This also stops the lumpfish from getting swept away when it’s in a strong current.

Come visit this cool Arctic fish at the Vancouver Aquarium – pun very much intended!

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