A Fish with a Head Full of Cirri in Canada - Observation of the Week, 11/23/20

Our Observation of the Week is this Chirolophis decoratus fish, seen in Canada by @leftcoaster!

“My first memory of being keenly aware of an interest in nature was when my mom took me to the beach when I was 8,” recalls Kathleen Reed. “The tide was out and we found all sorts of Lewis’s Moonsnail egg collars in the intertidal zone. I thought they looked like rubber - not something that an animal would create - and I was in awe when I found out what they actually were. I’ve enjoyed ocean environments ever since.”

While snorkeling in Thailand, Kathleen found that most of the really cool animals - sharks, turtles, rays, etc - were too deep for her to get a good look at. She signed up for a “try diving” outing with the local dive shop and “within the first few minutes of that ocean dive, I was hooked - the amazing critters, the ‘popping’ sound of corals, the sense of calm underwater - it was seeing a world I never knew existed.” She got certified as soon as she returned home and is now a divemaster with 450 dives under belt.

This past June, Kathleen went diving at the RivTow Lion, a sunken tugboat in the territorial waters of the Snuneymuxw Nation (Nanaimo, BC, Canada).

The ship had a wooden railing, which has rotted away over time and left perfect habitat for Decorated Warbonnets (Chirolophis decoratus). They don’t seem to have any natural predators on the ship, so they grow quite big, [about 15 inches (38 cm) in length]. I love looking for their very distinctive cirri sticking out of various nooks and crannies. On the dive I took this photo, I found 7 of them.

A species that ranges from northwestern Russia and down the Pacific Coast of North America to Humboldt Bay, Chirolophis decoratus do have those incredible cirri protruding from head, which may serve to either help them blend in to their surrounds and/or attract potential prey - which are mostly small invertebrates. It can be found hiding among seaweed, rocks, and various other crevices and cover objects.

Although she only joined iNat about a month ago, Kathleen (above, with a Giant Pacific Octopus) says “the community is the best part; I’ve learned so much from members like @anudibranchmom, @phelsumas4life, @msnewel, @mac-e, @rfields, @estehr, @sebastophile

They’ve helped me to learn how to distinguish types of fish, crabs, and nudibranchs that all looked the same to me before. They’ve also updated me on some of the recent science that’s happened with nudibranchs; I had no idea the extent to which my print ID books were outdated.

Aside from enjoying the iNaturalist community’s knowledge, I really love having something to do with the photos I take while scuba diving. Prior to iNaturalist, they were just sitting on my hard drive. Now I can post them, keep track of what I see and where, and contribute to research and conservation projects like tracking Sea Star Wasting Disease.

iNaturalist has definitely made me more focussed on what nature is around me wherever I am. Even if I’m out running errands, I’ll be on the lookout for a tree or a bug I don’t know. It’s also inspired me to get better at identifying land-based nature. Being a diver, I was pretty focused on just the ocean before.

- The story behind the octopus photo, from Kathleen. The photo was taken by Shane Gross. “I was focussed on looking into a crevice in the rock wall, when I saw my dive buddy’s light flashing frantically. I turned around quickly, and all I saw was tentacles coming at me. It was a large male Giant Pacific Octopus, and he was very curious. My dive buddy captured the moment I first spotted the octopus. I immediately backed off, and after the octopus came toward me tentatively a few times, he returned to hunting. We watched him from a respectful distance for 30 minutes, marvelling at his colour changing and ability to “blanket” over rocks and rummage around for food.”

- Some nice facts about and footage of Chirolophis decoratus in this video.

- Take a look at this beach in Australia, covered with egg collars of the moon snail genus Conuber.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, November 23, 2020 22:29


Nice! You may also enjoy My Octopus Teacher - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Octopus_Teacher

Posted by tonyrebelo about 2 years ago (Flag)

Love the shots and love the post! Kathleen is such a rock star.

Posted by emlim about 2 years ago (Flag)

I love it! Such a fantastic photo of an amazing looking fish. And the photo of you with the octopus is incredible! I’m looking forward to seeing more of your observations.

Posted by lisa_bennett about 2 years ago (Flag)

Really great stuff, Kathleen. To you a big welcome from all of us to iNaturalist, and I am happy that you enjoy the platform so much, as well as loving marine life and land life as much as you do!

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)

Welcome to iNat, Kathleen! Thanks for sharing the cool photos!

Posted by conorflynn about 2 years ago (Flag)

I've really been enjoying the fish photos you have posted - always happy to help ID the rockfish! Keep them coming!

Posted by rfields about 2 years ago (Flag)

I would say a head "covered with cirri", rather than a head "full of cirri". I was expecting "cirri" to be parasites, or some kind of symbiont, that lived in, or moved in, and out of, the head of, the fish. After looking "cirri" up, I saw that "cirri" were the somewhat tentacle-like projections from the head.

Posted by stewartwechsler about 2 years ago (Flag)

I agree with @stewartwechsler. I thought it was some sort of disease! Nice photo, though!

Posted by imladris about 2 years ago (Flag)

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