An armoured-up cutie pie

HlGaagilda Xaayda Kil: chiina sk’aajuu

English: Pacific spiny lumpsucker

Latin: Eumicrotremus orbis (good-little-hole circle)

A spherical body can make for a clumsy swimmer, but Spiny lumpsuckers take a break from the jostling by anchoring themselves to objects with a distinguishing suction-cup made from pelvic fins.

Lumpsuckers don’t have scales and this accounts for part of their bumbling movements. Instead, they are covered in plates of spiny lumps. These features combined with a wide mouth, poufy lips and bloopy eyes render an endearing likeness.

As long as there is something to cling to, the circular swimmers aren’t picky about their wide-ranging habitats. From Puget Sound through the Aleutian Islands to Hokkaido, Japan they lock their sucker down among the eelgrass, rocks, kelp beds, shallows and docks from the intertidal down to 146 metres depth. They are especially fond of hiding in eelgrass at night making it tough for predators to find these camouflaged cavorters, which are usually little more than an inch long.

Lumpfish are solitary, only indulging briefly in companionship to mate and lay bright-orange eggs in late summer. After fertilizing, males hunker down close by and fan the eggs with their tails until they hatch. The feisty fathers ward off small crabs, fish, and sea stars from the warm, deep rock-depressions where the eggs are hidden.

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