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Pretty to Pretty Freaky: Grunt Sculpins of Washington / Oregon Coast Make Noises and Walk (Video)

Published 10/02/23 at 8:47 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Pretty to Pretty Freaky: Grunt Sculpins of Washington / Oregon Coast Make Noises and Walk (Video)

(Oregon Coast) – Wandering the tidepools of the Oregon coast or Washington coast, you're going to see a lot of colors, and a lot of things that look like they belong in sci-fi movies. They may be pretty, but these creatures are pretty freaky as well. (Photos Seaside Aquarium)

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All this came to light again recently as Seaside Aquarium pointed out their grunt sculpin (Rhamphocottus richardsonii) had just found some new real estate in their tanks. They had found a cylindrical chunk of cement on the beach, covered in crusty ocean stuff (oysters and barnacles), so they plopped it in one of the tanks.

Their resident grunt sculpin took to it rather gladly.

“Grunt Sculpins spend a lot of time in vacant barnacle shells, like tiny caves, but we thought we should try upgrading him to a castle fit for this king,” the aquarium said. “This is no small feat. Grunt is a very picky tenant, and the chances of him just hiding behind the structure was in the 90th percentile. We did keep his favorite barnacle in there in case he gets homesick, but for now we get to watch him show off and play king of the castle.”

The grunt sculpin – like his many cousins of different kinds of sculpins – is quite colorful. He'll also make funky noises, which is unusual for a fish.

“Have you ever seen a more interesting looking fish?,” the aquarium said on social. “The Grunt Sculpin is one of our favorite little critters to keep and care for at the Aquarium. As the name suggests, these guys actually grunt and vibrate when held or disturbed, and it has been reported by divers that the noise can be heard both in and out of water. Grunts are also interestingly proportioned, with their big round heads making up more than half of their short, stout bodies and their fins being more like long thin fingers. The bright orange fins and pattered, narrow face may look like difficult camouflage to work with, but when sitting inside their preferred habitat - an empty giant barnacle shell – they really look like it.”

The grunt sculpin excels at camouflage in a lot of ways. That unique face makes them resemble barnacles, which causes predators to just swim on by.

Have you ever seen a more interesting looking fish? The Grunt Sculpin is one of our favorite little critters to keep and care for at the Aquarium. As the name suggests, these guys actually grunt and vibrate when held or disturbed, and it has been reported by divers that the noise can be heard both in and out of water. "Grunts" are also interestingly proportioned, with their big round heads making up more than half of their short, stout bodies and their fins being more like long thin fingers. The bright orange fins and pattered, narrow face may look like difficult camouflage to work with, but when sitting inside their preferred habitat- an empty Giant Barnacle shell- they look just like it. When you're visiting us, try and catch the Grunt Sculpin moving around its tank. Though they can swim, they prefer walking and hopping around on the tips of their pectoral fins!

Posted by Seaside Aquarium on Sunday, December 4, 2022

You can see video of the grunt sculpin moving around here, which is quite a sight for visitors to the Washington or Oregon coastline. While they can swim, they actually prefer walking, which is done by hopping around on the tips of their pectoral fins.


They range all over the Pacific coastline, often found in shallow intertidal zones, but they live as deep as 500 feet below sea level.

What kinds of sculpin are there in Oregon coast and Washington coast tidepools? See the article for a sampling. There are also numerous freshwater sculpin.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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