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A Marine Wonder of the World - Lumpfish.

In a world of strangely shaped fish, lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) are among the most bizarre. Their stout bodies are scaleless and covered with rows of little lumps and bumps, topped by a dorsal fin that looks like a series of spines emerging from a cartilaginous hump. Their colors can vary from blue or blue-gray to greenish brown, while breeding males are bright red.

On its underside, each lumpfish has a round sucker disc that it uses to attach itself temporarily to any hard surface, allowing it to avoid being swept away with the current. The adult grows to 16--24 inches in length and 4--6 pounds in weight.

While they spend most of the year in the open seas, at depths ranging to almost 1,000 feet, lumpfish migrate into the bay and other inshore waters when breeding season comes in the spring. Each female deposits well over 100,000 eggs at a time, in a protected crevice or under an overhang. The eggs are spongy and adhere to rocks and other hard surfaces.

The female then returns to the ocean, while the male stays behind to guard the nest and keep the eggs aerated. During this stage, the male does not leave the nest, even to feed. Only after the eggs have hatched, six to eight weeks later, does he leave his post and return to the offshore depths.

Newly hatched lumpfish spend their first year as planktonic larvae, drifting just a few feet beneath the surface. Thereafter, the larvae undergo metamorphosis to take on their fishlike structure and begin life on the bottom. Lumpfish feed on shrimp, worms, jellyfish, and small fish, reaching sexual maturity in approximately five years. Although they are not sought out by commercial fisheries, their eggs are sometimes used to make inexpensive caviar.

----J.S.

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Author:Shine, Jerry
Publication:World and I
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 1, 2002
Words:300
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