Swimming golf balls, now at the Seattle Aquarium!

A small adolescent Pacific spiny lumpsucker swimming in the water.

Meet our adolescent lumpsuckers, direct from Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco. These eight golf ball-shaped, cold-water fish have been chilling out (literally!) behind the scenes in a chilled system at the Aquarium until our incoming water was cold enough for them. Now you can find them in the eelgrass area of the Puget Sound Fish habitat, alongside the sailfin sculpin and high cockscomb. But don’t wait too long to meet them–they may go back into the chiller in late spring to keep them at their ideal cool temperature.
Adorably ugly, the Pacific spiny lumpsucker is known for being a funny-looking and awkward swimmer. But this fish has a hidden talent—it’s a camouflage superstar. Using its pelvic fins as suction cups, it can attach itself to rocks and other surfaces to blend into its surroundings. That helps it hide from predators (larger fish, crabs, octopus and more), but also makes it hard for us to spot. If they’re in hiding, you might find them inside the barnacle shells around the habitat.

The lumpsucker’s physical beauty (or lack thereof) can be attributed to its bump-covered body. These bumps are called tubercles, and although unattractive, they provide a cartilage coat of armor that helps keep the lumpsucker buoyant. Jelly deposits under its skin also help it stay afloat.

Pacific spiny lumpsuckers can be found in marine waters from northern Washington to the Bering Sea, along the Aleutian Island chain to Siberia and in northern Japan. The largest lumpsucker found measured five inches, but they usually average between one and two inches.

Come visit soon to see these tiny creatures settling into their new habitat.

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