Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata 

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Class Osteichthyes, Order Perciformes
 Family Anarhichadidae   Family Clinidae  Family Gobiidae
Anarrhichthys ocellatus


Gibbonsia sp. Rhinogobiops nicholsi
Anarrhichthys ocellatus
Gibbonsia
spp.
Rhinogobiops nicholsii
  Family Embiotocidae
Brachyistius frenatus Embiotoca jacksoni Embiotoca lateralis Hypsurus caryi Rhacochilus toxotes Rhachochilus vacca
Brachyistius frenatus Embiotoca jacksoni Embiotoca lateralis Hypsurus
caryi
Rhacochilus toxotes Rhacochilus vacca
 Family Labridae  Family Serranidae  Family Stichaeidae
Oxyjulis californica
Semicossyphus pulcher Paralabrax clathratus Cebidichthys violaceus
Oxyjulis californica Semicossyphus pulcher
Paralabrax clathratus Cebidichthys violaceus
 Family Kyphosidae  Family Pomacentridae Order Pleuronectiformes

Hypsypops rubicunda Paralichthys californicus Citharichthys_stigmaeus
Girella
nigricans
Medialuna californiensis Hypsypops rubicundus Chromis punctipinnis Paralicthys californicus Citharichthys stigmaeus
Class Chondrichthyes
 Order Rajiformes, Family Myliobatidae  Order Torpediniformes, Family Torpedinidae
Myliobatus californica

Torpedo californica
Myliobatus californica
Torpedo californica
Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora                                                  | Kelp Forest Index | Rocky Shore Index | SeaNet Home |
  Family Phocidae  Family Otariidae   Family Mustelidae
Phoca vitulina Mirounga angustirostris
Zalophus californianus

Enhydra lutris

Phoca
vitulina
Mirounga angustirostris Zalophus californianus

Enhydra
lutris



  














Anarrhichthys ocellatus
Anarrhichthys ocellatus  Ayres, 1855
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Anarhichadidae

Wolf eel, to 200 cm; bluish-gray to brownish with black spots outlined in white; blue, sometimes orange when young; large males usually with somewhat misshapen lumpy heads. Possess large canines & molars for crushing hard-shelled invertebrate prey.

Moderately common, among rocky outcrops, usually deeper in Monterey region. Male & female mate for life, occupying the same rocky dens for years; take turns guarding egg mass during reproduction.

Geogr. Range: Aleutian Islands to southern California
Synonyms:
Similar species:

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Gibbonsia sp. Gibbonsia spp.
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Clinidae

Kelpfish, 11-24 cm; elongate body with long dorsal fin which is taller at the front and back; pointed snout with small mouth. Color varies to match background, usually tans, browns, reds, & greens with white markings.

Moderately common, but inconspicuous due to color matching. In rocky areas with good algal cover.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: there are 3 species of kelpfish that occur in Monterey region; they are difficult to identify in the field.

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Rhinogobiops nicholsi
Rhinogobiops nicholsii  (Bean, 1882)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Gobiidae

Black-eyed goby, 10-15 cm; elongate tubular body, pale greenish-tan with black eyes and black spot on dorsal fin.

Common; benthic in sandy areas near rocks; site-specific if not territorial; darts into shelter hole under rocks when disturbed. Males guard egg nests. Lifespan to 5 yr.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to central Baja
Synonyms: Coryphopterus nicholsi
Similar species: black eyes & spot on dorsal fin are distinctive in Monterey region.

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Embiotoca lateralis Embiotoca lateralis  Agassiz, 1854
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Embiotocidae

Striped surfperch, to 38 cm; deep-bodied, with pale reddish-orange & blue horizontal stripes along body.

Common; demersal over rocky areas inside kelp forests; selective visual predator on small benthic invertebrates. Live bearers. Lifespan to 8 yr.

Geogr. Range: SE Alaska to northern Baja, but rare south of Pt Conception
Synonyms:
Similar species: Embiotoca jacksoni is dark brown with vertical dark bars. Rhacochilus toxotes has thicker lips and is sliver to brassy, lacking horizontal stripes. Rhacochilus  vacca has a much more deeply forked tail & a single broad dark bar on side.

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Embiotoca jacksoni Embiotoca jacksoni  Agassiz, 1853
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Embiotocidae

Black surfperch, to 39 cm; deep-bodied, sepia with dark brown vertical bars & blue base of anal fin.

Common, demersal over rocky habitat within kelp forests and adjacent sandy areas; winnows small prey from clumps of algae with gill rakers. Live bearers. Lifespan to 9 yr.

Geogr. Range: northern California to northern Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: Embiotoca lateralis has horizontal pale orange & blue stripes. Rhacochilus toxotes has thicker lips and is sliver to brassy, not brown. Rhacochilus  vacca has a much more deeply forked tail & a single broad dark bar on side

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Brachyistius frenatus Brachyistius frenatus  Gill, 1862
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Embiotocidae

Kelp perch, to 20 cm (usually less in Monterey); shiny, kelp-colored with sharp upturned snout and small mouth; dorsal fin ends rather far forward on body.

Common; up in water column near kelp canopy, often in groups. Visual picker-type predator on small invertebrates living on kelp & on zooplankton. Live bearers. 

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: other small surf perch such as Cymatogaster aggregata (shiner) or Micrometrus aurora (reef) are usually near the bottom in shallow water rather than near kelp canopy.

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Rhacochilus vacca Rhacochilus vacca (Girard, 1855)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Embiotocidae

Pile perch, to 44 cm; tail deeply forked & soft rays of 2nd dorsal fin are long; silvery to gray or brownish above, slivery below; usually with dark vertical bar on side with white patch near dorsum.

Common, over rocky substrate near kelp or pilings; solitary or in groups. Feeds on hard-shelled invertebrates. Live bearers. Lifespan to 9 yr.

Geogr. Range: SE Alaska to north-central Baja
Synonyms: Damalichthys vacca
Similar species:  Embiotoca jacksoni is dark brown with vertical dark bars. Embiotoca lateralis has horizontal pale orange & blue stripes. Rhacochilus toxotes has thicker lips and is sliver to brassy; also lacks longer soft rays of 2nd dorsal fin. 

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Rhacochilus toxotes Rhacochilus toxotes  Agassiz, 1854
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Embiotocidae

Rubberlip perch, to 47 cm; very thick white or pink lips; body sliver to brassy, adults with 1 or 2 vertical bars (sometimes faint); largest of surfperches.

Common, in kelp forests and around rocky areas. Often in schools near bottom or midwater near kelp. Feeds on small benthic crustaceans such as amphipods & shrimp. Live bearers. Lifespan to at least 9 yr.

Geogr. Range: northern California to central Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species:  Embiotoca jacksoni is dark brown with vertical dark bars. Embiotoca lateralis has horizontal pale orange & blue stripes. Rhacochilus vacca has smaller lips, a more deeply-forked tail and usually has a single prominent dark bar on side.

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Hypsurus caryi Hypsurus caryi  (Agassiz, 1853)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Embiotocidae

Rainbow perch, 12-30 cm; body with blue & orange stripes with dark orange-red vertical bars, head with blue & orange markings; dark blotches on dorsal fin & anal fin; belly profile is straighter rather than curved.

Common to abundant in shallow water over rocky substrate; solitary to large schools. Feeds on benthic crustaceans & other small invertebrates.  Live bearers. Occasionally seen cleaning large ocean sunfish.

Geogr. Range: northern California to northern Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: Embiotoca lateralis also has horizontal orange & blue stripes, but it's usually larger and lacks dark orange vertical bars.

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Oxyjulis californica Oxyjulis californica (Günther, 1861)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Labridae

Señorita, to 29 cm (most are smaller in Monterey); elongate fusiform fish with sharp snout & small mouth; brown to orange-yellow above, light below; with dark spot at base of tail.

Abundant in groups up in water column near kelp canopy. Buries in the sand at sunset and emerges again at dawn. Feeds on zooplankton & small invertebrates on kelp; also facultative cleaner, especially farther south. Lifespan to 7 yr.

Geogr. Range: northern California to central Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species:

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Semicossyphus pulcher Semicossyphus pulcher  (Ayres, 1854)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Labridae

Sheephead, to 91 cm. Males (inset) with white chin, black head & black tail; midsection red or pinkish; large males with bump on forehead; females with white chin but rest of body brownish-rose. Prominent canines, somewhat bucktoothed.

Rare in Monterey, over rocky substrate in kelp forests. Usually solitary. Feeds on a variety of hard-shelled invertebrates. Sequential hermaphrodites; usually recruits during El Niño years. Lifespan to 53 yr.

Geogr. Range: Monterey Bay to Gulf of California, rare north of Pt. Conception
Synonyms: Pimelometopon pulcher
Similar species:

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Paralabrax clathratus Paralabrax clathratus  (Girard, 1854)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Serranidae

Kelp bass, 25-72 cm; olive-brown above with white belly, irregular white rectangular blotches along side; jewel-like green eyes; fins yellowish, tail square-cut (not forked).

Moderately common in Monterey region, over rocky areas in kelp forests, throughout water column under canopy. Feeds on benthic invertebrates & small fish. Lifespan to 33 yr.

Geogr. Range: Washington to northern Baja, uncommon north of southern California
Synonyms:
Similar species: Sebastes serranoides is similar in shape but its white blotches are only along base of dorsal fin rather than scattered along entire body; it also lacks jewel-like green eyes.

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Cebidichthys violaceus Cebidichthys violaceus  (Girard, 1854)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Stichaeidae

Monkeyface prickleback, to 70 cm; black, gray, or olive with dark lines radiating from eye; lumpy ridge on forehead; anterior half of dorsal fin with spines.

Moderately common, especially in mid-intertidal zone; less common subtidally; can breathe air & remain out of water for 35 hr. Feeds on red & green algae. Lifespan to 18 yr.

Geogr. Range: southern Oregon to Baja, rare south of Pt. Conception
Synonyms:
Similar species:

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Girella nigricans Girella nigricans  (Ayres, 1860)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Kyphosidae

Opaleye, 20-50 cm; deep bodied, similar in shape to a surfperch but with a blunt head; dark gray-green to olive green with 1-3 white spots at base of dorsal fin; tail square-cut (not forked); eye bright blue to blue-green.

Moderately common, over rocky areas especially in shallow water in Monterey region. Feeds primarily on algae, but also a variety of invertebrates.

Geogr. Range: Oregon to Baja, most abundant south of Pt. Conception
Synonyms:
Similar species: Medialuna californiensis is similar in shape, but blue grading to light belly & lacks blue-green eyes; also tends to school up in water column rather than near bottom.

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Medialuna californiensis Medialuna californiensis  (Steindachner, 1876)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Kyphosidae

Halfmoon, 20-48 cm; perch-shaped with blunt head; blue above with light belly; often with dark spot near dorsal edge of gill operculum; tail is a crescent half-moon shape. 

Uncommon in Monterey; over rocky areas with kelp, often in groups. Feeds on algae, but also a variety of invertebrates.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to Baja, uncommon north of Pt. Conception
Synonyms:
Similar species: Girella nigricans is similar in shape, but darker in color with 1-3 obvious white spots near base of dorsal fin; its eyes are bright blue-green.

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Hypsypops rubicunda Hypsypops rubicundus  (Girard, 1854)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Pomacentridae

Garibaldi, to 36 cm; perch-shaped, bright orange; juveniles with blue spots.

Rare in Monterey region; in rocky areas with clear water. Males highly territorial during reproductive season; prepares a nest site & guard eggs once laid by female.

Geogr. Range: Monterey Bay to Baja, rare north of Pt. Conception
Synonyms:
Similar species:

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Chromis punctipinnis Chromis punctipinnis  (Cooper, 1863)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Perciformes, Family Pomacentridae

Blacksmith, 15-30 cm; perch-shaped with blunt head & large scales; blue-gray to slate with black spots on posterior half of body; posterior half of juveniles brassy orange.

Rare in Monterey region; recruit during El Niño years; near rocky reefs & kelp; young school in open water. Day-active zooplankton feeder; seeks shelter in rock crevices at night. Males guard egg nests.

Geogr. Range: Monterey Bay to Baja, rare north of Pt. Conception
Synonyms:
Similar species:

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Paralichthys californicus Paralichthys californicus  (Ayres, 1859)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Pleuronectiformes, Family Paralichthyidae

California halibut, large size 60-150 cm, right or left-eyed flounder; large mouth with jaw extending beyond eye; uniform gray or brown in color; lateral line arched over pectoral fin; tail fin arched outward in middle.

On or partially buried in flat sandy to silty bottoms.

Geogr. Range: Washington State to southern Baja Calif.
Synonyms:
Similar species: Hippoglossus (Pacific halibut) is almost always right-eyed, has slightly indented concave margin on tail & inhabits deeper water.

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Citharichthys stigmaeus Citharichthys stigmaeus  (Jordan & Gilbert, 1882)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Osteichthyes, Subclass Actinopterygii, Order Pleuronectiformes, Family Paralichthyidae

Speckled sanddab, small (to only 13cm), left-eyed; length of pectoral fin less than distance from base to eye; tan or brown with dark speckles & spots; lateral line straight. 

On sandy bottoms, well camouflaged (can change color).

Geogr. Range: southeast Alaska to southern Baja Calif.
Synonyms:
Similar species: Several other spp. of Citharichthys occur along the central Calif. coast, but C. stigmaeus is probably the most common one in diving depths.

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Myliobatus californica Myliobatus californica  Gill, 1865
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Chondrichthyes, Subcl. Elasmobranchii, Order Rajiformes, Family Myliobatidae

Bat ray, to 180 cm across; blunt head with thick snout, triangular fins; one small dorsal fin & long tail. 

Common in sheltered sites on sandy or muddy bottoms, often partially buried; uncommon in kelp forests. Feeds on burrowing invertebrates. Live bearers. Lifespan to 24 yr.

Geogr. Range: Oregon to Gulf of California
Synonyms:
Similar species: Raja binoculata (big skate) is more diamond-shaped with a flat head, two small dorsal fins, and 2 prominent eyespots on dorsum of fins.

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Torpedo californica
Torpedo californica  Ayres, 1855
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Class Chondrichthyes, Subcl. Elasmobranchii, Order Torpediniformes, Family Torpedinidae

Electric ray, to 130 cm (smaller in Monterey); body circular, flat with fleshy rounded tail; dark gray with black blotches.

Moderately common, but cryptic, lying buried in sand or mud during daylight hours. Swims several feet above bottom at night in search of prey, which it electrocutes by surrounding it with its wing-like fins and discharging shocks of 50 volts or more.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to Baja, most common south of Pt. Conception
Synonyms:
Similar species:

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Phoca vitulina Phoca vitulina richardii  (Gray, 1864)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Supercl. Tetrapoda, Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Phocidae

Eastern Pacific harbor seal. No external ears, hind flippers cannot be rotated under body to aid in walking on land; front flippers used for steering with propulsion from hind flippers. Males to 1.9 m, 170 kg, females to 1.7 m, 142 kg.

Common. Can dive >100 m; feeds on fish, cephalopods, crustaceans. Lifespan 25-30 yr.

Geogr. Range: Japan through Alaska to Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: Zalophus californianus is larger, has small external ears, & can rotate its hind flipper under the body for walking.

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Mirounga angustirostris Mirounga angustirostris  (Gill, 1866)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Supercl. Tetrapoda, Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Phocidae

Northern elephant seal.  Largest species of family, sexually dimorphic.  Males to 4 m, 2000 kg, females to 3 m, 600 kg; mature males w. fleshy inflatable proboscis (photo).

On shore during breeding season (Dec to Mar). Spend other 9 months at sea.  Can dive >800 m; females  remain on surface only ~15% of the time; feed on fish, squid, also rays & sharks. Lifespan 13-19 yr (males < females); reach maturity ~7 yr.

Geogr. Range: Alaska to Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: Harbor seals, Phoca vitulina, are smaller; males lack proboscis.

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Zalophus californianus Zalophus californianus  (Lesson, 1828)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Supercl. Tetrapoda, Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Otariidae

California sea lion. Small external ears, long front flippers; hind flippers can be rotated under body for movement on land; males with bump on forehead (2.4 m, 400 kg), females smaller (2 m, 110 kg).

Common. Can dive to >300 m; feeds on fish, cephalopods, crustaceans. Lifespan to 25 yr.

Geogr. Range: British Columbia to Baja
Synonyms:
Similar species: Phoca vitulina has no external ears, its hind flippers extend straight back and cannot rotate under the body.

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Enhydra lutris Enhydra lutris  (Linnaeus, 1758)
Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Infraphylum Gnathostomata, Supercl. Tetrapoda, Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Mustelidae

California sea otter. Round head with powerful jaws; flat blunt tail and webbed paws; front paws with retractable claws; fur has highest hair density of any mammal; 16-27 kg (largest males to 40 kg).

Common in Monterey region. Consumes 15-25% body weight per day in mostly invertebrate prey. Uses rock tools to open shelled prey. Lifespan to 20 yr.

Geogr. Range: Alaska and central California
Synonyms:
Similar species:

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Page created by J.M. Watanabe
All images copyright James Watanabe unless otherwise indicated
Contact:  watanabe_at_stanford_dot_edu                                                                                                                                   Last  update: 19 June 2015