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Spinyhead sculpin (Dasycottus setiger)

To find our published papers, look for Emily Kane on GOOGLE SCHOLAR

Station-holding in benthic fishes

Sculpins are (what some would call ugly) bottom-dwelling fishes that are common on the Pacific Coast of the US. They are found in habitats ranging from shallow rocky tidepools to deep ocean channels, which means they also deal with a variety of environmental demands. One such demand is maintaining their position on the bottom in the face of strong currents or waves. They have several traits that assist with this - they lack a swim bladder and are negatively buoyant, for example. But one adaptation is particularly exceptional - they have enormous pectoral fins that that they use to generate negative lift (like an upside down bird wing) and that have reduced webbing on the bottom half that they can use to physically grab the substrate (like claws).  Although it may sound like we have a good idea of how this works, the more we have looked, the more questions we have about the form and function of these fins!

Recent work describing rotational feeding, aka death rolls, in sculpins will be out soon in Northwestern Naturalist! Additional projects on prey capture and fin morphology will be submitted soon. With recently obtained funding, we are continuing to pursue these questions in the next few years, including fieldwork, descriptive morphological work, and experimental tests of behavior and performance within and across species. 

A tidepool sculpin (Oligocottus maculosus) using the ventral portion of its large pectoral fins to grip a rock 

This work has been funded by: ​

  • Friday Harbor Laboratory New Faculty Research Fellowship (2022)

  • Louisiana Board of Regents support fund research & development program (2023-2026)

  • Upcoming work is in preparation for proposal submission to the National Science Foundation.

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