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Lumpfish

Cyclopterus lumpus

The lumpfish gets its scientific name <em>Cyclopterus</em> from the Green <em>kyklos</em>, meaning “round,” and <em>pteron</em>, meaning “fin.” (Image credit: Solveig/Shutterstock)
The lumpfish gets its scientific name Cyclopterus from the Green kyklos, meaning “round,” and pteron, meaning “fin.” (Image credit: Solveig/Shutterstock)

Lumpfish are saltwater fish, generally living in the North Atlantic but occasionally coming as far south as the Chesapeake Bay. They have a skin-covered fin that gives them a high crest on their backs, and they have three rows of bony protrusions on their sides.

Appearance:

Lumpfish can vary in color, but they are usually greenish or gray. During the spawning season, males become reddish on their undersides and females turn blue-green. Their first dorsal fin on their backs is covered by a thick layer of skin, creating their characteristic high crest without visible spines. Along their sides, lumpfish have three rows of large, bony protrusions called tubercles. Their pelvic fins are shaped to act like suction discs, allowing the fish to attach itself to rocks and other objects.

They can grow to be as large as two feet in length and weigh up to 21 pounds. In the wild, lumpfish live to be between six and seven years old, but the oldest known lumpfish was 13 years old.

Habitat:

These saltwater fish are found in waters that range from 140 to 490 feet deep. When spawning, they come closer inshore. They generally stick to rocky bottoms but can also be found among seaweed.

Range:

Lumpfish occur along both coasts of the North Atlantic, but only occasionally come as far south at the Chesapeake Bay in the winter and early spring.

Feeding:

Lumpfish eat jellyfish, crustaceans, marine worms and small fish.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

These are solitary, not schooling fish. Lumpfish come inshore to spawn from May to June. The males guard the egg masses after they are laid, and they can be as large as 300,000 eggs.

Other Facts:

  • The lumpfish gets its scientific name Cyclopterus from the Greek kyklos, meaning “round,” and pteron, meaning “fin.”
  • Lumpfish are also known as lumpsuckers.
  • People in northern Europe eat smoked lumpfish, and they are highly valued for their eggs which can make an inexpensive caviar.

Sources and Additional Information:

  • FAO FishFinder – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes by C. Richard Robins, G. Carleton Ray and John Douglass
  • FishBase – R. Froese and D. Pauly
  • Fishes of Chesapeake Bay by Edward O. Murdy, Ray S. Birdsong and John A. Musick
  • Fish: Lumpfish – NatureGate



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