I recently met a grunt sculpin and had to share the experience. While peering into a tank at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, suddenly the strangest looking creature started moving towards the front. My first thought, what the… It kind of looks like a seahorse / fish hybrid with a few funky genes in the mix. Thankfully, a Cabrillo staff member was able to explain that the creature I was looking at was a fish called the grunt sculpin.
He also explained that the grunt sculpin uses its excellent and bizarre design to camouflage and hide within rocky areas covered with barnacles. In fact, he said usually the grunt sculpin spends most of its time doing just that, blending in and trying to remain unseen, invisible to nasty predators. But this grunt sculpin has realized there is no need to hide in his predator-free aquarium and is just out for a daring “naked” stroll. There are hermit crabs that also ditch their shells at aquariums once they catch on that there really aren’t any predators to hide from.
I looked up the grunt sculpin in my favorite fish reference book Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast by Milton Love. This fish has another awesome scientific name: Rhamphocottus richardsoni. Really you ask? Yes. Love explains that Rhamphacottus is Greek for snout and cottus is a very old word for a European sculpin while richardsoni is a way to honor John Richardson, a naturalist and explorer. But what’s the point of adding an “i” to richardson? That I can’t answer.