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Grunt sculpins take flight for breeding

Aug 02 2012
Head aquarist Paula Romagosa shows off a container of grunt sculpins at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney. 

Head aquarist Paula Romagosa shows off a container of grunt sculpins at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , timescolonist.com (August 2012)

Grunt sculpins are known for awkwardly hopping along the ocean floor making strange noises.

But on Wednesday, they flew.

Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney is taking over the grunt sculpin breeding program from the Vancouver Aquarium while the research laboratory is under renovation.

Ten juveniles, 300 larvae and 200 eggs were whisked from Vancouver to Victoria on a free Harbour Air flight.

This marked the first time fish have been flown to the Ocean Discovery Centre instead of being transported in large tanks on trucks.

The flight made the whole process more manageable, Shaw head aquarist Paula Romagosa said.

"They are fairly delicate animals," she said.

However, the grunt sculpins apparently enjoyed the flight.

"A lot of the eggs started hatching during the transport and the babies seem to be eating," Romagosa said.

So what is attractive about a fish with a stocky body, large bulbous head, short tapered snout and spiny plates - a fish that swims so poorly, it resorts to twitching and hopping along on the tips of its finger-like pectoral fins while making grunting noises?

"They are unique little fish. They really are quite cute. Especially when you see them struggling when they are swimming," Romagosa said.

They are also masters of disguise and can often be seen in local waters, hiding in barnacle shells or even in bottles and cans.

The aim is to raise as many of the grunt sculpins as possible.

The captive-bred animals will then be traded with other aquariums, Romagosa said.

"A lot of aquariums prefer to trade animals born in captivity rather than catching them in the wild," she said.

Vancouver Aquarium will revive the breeding program once work on the laboratory is completed, but Romagosa hopes to continue a parallel program in Sidney.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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