These Pacific spiny lumpsucker babies appear to prefer hanging out on this plastic
The story of these “condo” dwelling Pacific spiny lumpsuckers (Eumicrotremus orbis) babies starts with a late night jaunt to Lumberman’s Arch, just down the road from the Vancouver Aquarium. Justin Lisaingo, a biologist at the Aquarium, says that’s where they collected 20 adults in eelgrass beds during low tide.
Once back at the Aquarium, he says the males eventually settled into giant acorn barnacle (Balanus nubilus) shells, waiting for the females to lay their eggs. While the eggs developed, the males guarded them and fanned their fins to produce water flow, which increased oxygen to the eggs.
After a period of guarding and fanning… 200 Pacific spiny lumpsucker babies! Justin had the same reaction as others may have seeing them for the first time.
“I just thought they were really cute.”
Justin noticed they were using their modified pelvic (hip) fins to “suction” onto the side of the rubber tubes that bring oxygen into the exhibit. Realizing that they also “suction” onto eelgrass in their natural habitat, Justin thought they might prefer a vertical substrate.
The black plastic grid in the image above is a multi-purpose tool used behind the scenes. It can be used to diffuse overhead light or as a cover for an exhibit. Justin placed it into the water to see if it would be useful to the Pacific spiny lumpsuckers. He found they prefer settling on the plastic grid over the exhibit bottom.
So, in watching these fish grow every day, how does he feel about them?
“Yeah, I guess I’m proud of them!”
Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.