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The Freaky and Funny Lumpsucker of the Oregon Coast

Published 11/09/2016 at 5:01 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Freaky and Funny Lumpsucker of the Oregon Coast

(Seaside, Oregon) – Sometimes the kookiest things lurk in the waters of the Pacific Northwest and at your local aquarium. Such as at the Seaside Aquarium, on the north Oregon coast, where they occasionally have a wacky little fish called the lumpsucker. With huge, bulbous eyes and an even more balloon-like body, they are comical and odd at the same time. (All photos Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

Tiffany Boothe, with the Seaside Aquarium, said they don't have any lumpsuckers right now at the facility – but periodically they get them. Often, they're brought into the aquarium as part of a fisherman's catch that can't be used – called bycatch.

You may also keep a lookout for them at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.

“Lumpsuckers belong to the the Cyclopteridae family, which includes 27 separate species, all who can only be found in the cold waters of the northern hemisphere,” Boothe said. “The Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker ranges from the Bering Sea to Northern Washington, and they also are found along the Aleutian Island chain to Siberia and northern Japan.”


Some types of lumpsuckers grow to be as big as 15 inches, and these are so slimy they are nearly impossible to hold, according to NOAA.

However, we have the Pacific spiny lumpsucker. These get to five inches. They don't exist off the Oregon coast as much as the northern Washington coast, but they definitely show up in aquariums in this state.

“A close cousin of the snailfish, lumpsuckers get their name from their habit of clinging to rocks and other objects with a small disk found on the breast of the fish,” Boothe said.

With that big sucker on their underside they can stick themselves rather stubbornly to objects. They are poor swimmers because of their wide, round bodies and little fins, causing them to stay primarily at the bottom of the ocean. When they're disturbed, they tend to flop around in random directions.

This can be amusing, Boothe said.

“They are a favorite among aquarists at the aquarium,” she said. “When they swim they resemble fat little helicopters.”

She also called them adorable – by the way they look and how they interact with the aquarists at this north Oregon coast attraction.

“Lumpsuckers are very fun fish to care for and will readily eat out of our hands, which always puts a smile on our faces,” Boothe said.

When they are newly hatched, they're already fairly well developed with a functional mouth and digestive system. They start off almost immediately ready to munch on tiny crustaceans and fish – a mere ten days after hatching. Sometimes, however, within that time frame they may start eating each other.

The lumpsucker is a big part of the Icelandic culture and cuisine. The males are a delicacy yet the females are awful to the taste, but their eggs can fetch a good price. It is worth calling ahead to find out what the Seaside Aquarium has just before your next visit: 503-738-6211, More on the Seaside Aquarium. Lodging in Astoria/Seaside - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours


the Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker




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