Banded Sculpin

Banded Sculpin

Cottus carolinae
Family: 
Cottidae (sculpins) in the order Scorpaeniformes (mail-cheeked fishes)
Description: 

Sculpins have flattened bodies, large mouths and enlarged pectoral fins. They can modify their color to match their background. They have large heads that taper abruptly into the rather slender body. They lack scales but often have small prickles on head and body. This species is reddish-brown without strong mottling but with well-defined dark bars across back and sides. There is a broad, distinct vertical bar at the base of the tail fin (the Ozark and mottled sculpins don't have this bar).

Size: 
Adult length: 2½–5 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Sculpins live in springs, spring branches, spring-fed streams and caves. They are bottom-dwellers and lack swim bladders. Their body shape and fins enable them to maintain position in a stream’s swift currents. They spend most of their life in less than 100 yards of stream. Biologists are studying some mottled sculpins that live in caves and have specific adaptations for cave life. These fish may soon be declared a separate species, the “grotto sculpin.”
Foods: 
Sculpins have very large mouths and are able to swallow prey items (including other sculpins) nearly as large as themselves. They feed mostly at night on crayfish, immature stages of aquatic insects, small fish and snails. They often capture their prey by ambush.
Distribution in Missouri: 
The most widely distributed Missouri sculpin. Occurs in all the major Ozark stream systems and north into Lincoln County.
Status: 
Although this is the most widely distributed sculpin in the state, the other species (Ozark and mottled sculpins) attain higher population densities where they occur.
Life cycle: 
Sculpins spend days under rocks and emerge to feed mostly at night. Mating and nesting is in spring, with males excavating cavities beneath rocks and logs and then carefully guarding the few-hundred eggs until they hatch—which is usually about a month later. The maximum life span of this species is probably 6 years or more.
Human connections: 
Sculpins have been accused of eating trout eggs, a charge that is largely without foundation. Occasionally, they are caught accidentally by anglers on worms, and they are sometimes used as bait.
Ecosystem connections: 
Anyone who has had an aquarium knows the importance of a bottom-feeder! Just as animals on dry land occupy their various habitats and ecological roles, so do animals under the water. This fish, therefore, specializes in eating smaller critters that also creep around on the bottoms of streams.
Shortened URL
http://mdc.mo.gov/node/3242