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Overview

Brief Summary

In the North Sea, the butterfish is a common small (up to 25 centimeters) coastal fish, which likes to hide between the rocks (or basalt blocks from sea dikes) and in wrecks. Butterfish eat all kinds of small prey, such as shrimp, slaters, shellfish and worms. You can find clumps of yellow round eggs from the butterfish under stones lying low in the tidal zone.
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Occurs in shallow waters (seashore, tide pools), but descends (especially in winter) to 100 m or more. May remain out of water under rocks or seaweeds (Ref. 31184). Feeds on small crustaceans, polychaetes, mollusks and fish eggs. The eggs are laid on the sea bed in a large clump, which is closely guarded until hatched (Ref. 9900). Breathes air when out of water (Ref. 31184). Spawning occur in November - January . Female lays 80-200 eggs in a large ball under a stone or in an empty bivalve shell (Ref. 35388).
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Description

 Pholis gunnellus has an elongate, laterally compressed body up to 25 cm long. This fish has thick fleshy lips and small, conical teeth. A black stripe is present through the eye.The dorsal fin is long, consisting of 75-82 spines, begins just behind the head and reaches to the base of the caudal fin. A series of around 12 distinctive black spots, outlined in white are present along the base of the dorsal fin. The pelvic fin is reduced to a minute spine. The anal fin is long with 39-45 soft fin rays. The caudal fin is rounded. The butterfish is yellowish to reddish brown with irregular darker vertical bars or a mottled pattern on the body.Pholis gunnellus is related to Chirolophis ascani (Yarell's blenny) and together these belong to a group called the Arctic blennies (Dipper, 2001). The butterfish is unusual in that both parents may take turns to guard the eggs. The name 'butterfish' derives from the slimy skin of this fish.
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Description

The butterfish has a long, slender, eel-like body which is flattened from side to side. It has a very slippery skin and is difficult to pick up, hence its common name. The coloration is usually yellowish-brown with darker brown mottling. Like yarrell's blenny (Chirolophis ascani) there is a dark bar which runs from beneath the eye to the outer edge of the mouth. The most characteristic feature of the butterfish is a row of 9-15 black spots, each surrounded by a white ring, along the base of the dorsal fin. Adult fish are between 17-25cm in length. Eels, some blennies and rocklings are a similar shape, however only the butterfish has a row of black spots surrounded by white circles at the base of the dorsal fin.
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Labrador to Delaware Bay
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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North Atlantic: Kanin Peninsula southward to La Rochelle (including White Sea, North Sea and Baltic), also Iceland, but not eastern Greenland, Spitzbergen or Novaya Zemlya. Western Atlantic: Labrador, Canada to Delaware Bay, USA (Ref. 7251).
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Western Baltic Sea, North Sea, North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean: Greenland and Labrador to Delaware Bay; Iceland and European coasts from northern Bay of Biscay to White Sea and Barents Sea (Kanin Peninsula).
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This species is common and widespread all around Britain and Ireland.
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Physical Description

Size

Maximum size: 250 mm SL
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Max. size

25.0 cm SL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 4693)); max. reported age: 5 years (Ref. 72462)
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Diagnostic Description

Ribbon - shaped body with 9 - 13 eye spots along the base of the dorsal fin (Ref. 35388).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat Type: Marine

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Found in shallow waters, especially tidepools but may descend to depths of 100 m or more, hides under stones and seaweed.
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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benthic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Environment

demersal; non-migratory; brackish; marine; depth range 0 - 100 m (Ref. 48978), usually 0 - 30 m (Ref. 35388)
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Depth range based on 1664 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 721 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): -9 - 310.5
  Temperature range (°C): 0.450 - 23.867
  Nitrate (umol/L): 1.522 - 22.184
  Salinity (PPS): 22.343 - 36.067
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.182 - 7.862
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.195 - 1.500
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.685 - 15.545

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): -9 - 310.5

Temperature range (°C): 0.450 - 23.867

Nitrate (umol/L): 1.522 - 22.184

Salinity (PPS): 22.343 - 36.067

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.182 - 7.862

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.195 - 1.500

Silicate (umol/l): 1.685 - 15.545
 
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 Primarily found on the shore from mid to low tide mark amongst seaweed, under rocks and in crevices. It is also common subtidally to 40 m. Offshore it occurs amongst rocky areas but also on sand and muddy substrata.
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The butterfish is common beneath boulders and seaweeds on the low shore and also sublittorally in a wide range of habitats. It frequently hides amongst seaweed or in crevices in rock. It feeds mainly on small crustaceans and worms.
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Occurs in shallow waters (seashore, tide pools), but descends (especially in winter) to 100 m or more. May remain out of water under rocks or seaweeds (Ref. 31184). Feeds on small crustaceans, polychaetes, mollusks and fish eggs. The eggs are laid on the sea bed in a large clump, which is closely guarded until hatched (Ref. 9900). Breathes air when out of water (Ref. 31184). Preyed upon by cod and pollock. Parasites of the species include 2 protozoans, 1 myxosporidian and 1 trematode (Ref. 5951).
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Associations

Known predators

  • Hall SJ, Raffaelli D (1991) Food-web patterns: lessons from a species-rich web. J Anim Ecol 60:823–842
  • Huxham M, Beany S, Raffaelli D (1996) Do parasites reduce the chances of triangulation in a real food web? Oikos 76:284–300
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Known prey organisms

  • Hall SJ, Raffaelli D (1991) Food-web patterns: lessons from a species-rich web. J Anim Ecol 60:823–842
  • Huxham M, Beany S, Raffaelli D (1996) Do parasites reduce the chances of triangulation in a real food web? Oikos 76:284–300
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Diet

Feeds on small crustaceans, polychaetes, molluscs and fish eggs
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Life Cycle

Male and female coil around the egg ball (Ref. 58332).
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 5 years (wild)
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Pholis gunnellus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pholis gunnellus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 33
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Threats

Not Evaluated
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Importance

fisheries: of no interest; aquarium: commercial
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Wikipedia

Rock gunnel

The rock gunnel (Pholis gunnellus) is an eel-like fish found in the intertidal and subtidal zones of the North Atlantic. It is one of two species of gunnel native to the Atlantic Ocean, the other being the banded gunnel. The rock gunnel is capable of remaining above the waterline at low tide and breathing air.

Physical characteristics[edit]

Pholis gunnellus1.jpg

The rock gunnel is often mistaken for an eel due to its flattened, elongated body. Fully grown adults can reach 30 cm in length. A long dorsal fin spans the body from just behind the head, supported by soft spiny rays. Its anal fin begins roughly midway along the body. The head is rather small with its lower jaw protruding and mouth turned upwards. Coloration is highly variable, ranging from hues of yellow-green to brown to crimson. A row of 9-13 dark spots, each surrounded by a pale ring, lines the dorsal fin.

Habitat and distribution[edit]

The rock gunnel is found in the coastal waters of North America and Europe. It ranges from Labrador and Greenland to Delaware Bay in the West Atlantic, and from the Kanin Peninsula to the Bay of Biscay in the East Atlantic.[1] Within its range it is found from the intertidal zone to depths of over 100 m. The rock gunnel uses habitat sheltered by rocks and algae both above and below the waterline, likely to protect it from its natural predators, which include seabirds, fish, and marine mammals.[2]

Behavior[edit]

During low tides, the rock gunnel may remain above the waterline, sheltered beneath rocks and algae, and can breathe air if necessary. They are frequently encountered on rocky shorelines, and splash around noticeably when uncovered. Within its North American range, the rock gunnel disappears from the intertidal during winter, likely to avoid freezing air temperatures. Spawning occurs during the winter, and demersal egg masses are guarded by the parents. Egg masses sometimes occur in the intertidal along the European coast. The rock gunnel's diet consists mainly of small crustaceans, including amphipods and isopods, as well as polychaetes and mollusks. The foraging behavior of the rock gunnel is poorly understood.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2013). "Pholis gunnellus" in FishBase. March 2013 version.
  2. ^ Shorty, J. T.; Gannon, D. P. (2013). "Habitat Selection by the Rock Gunnel, Pholis gunnellus L. (Pholidae)". Northeastern Naturalist 20: 155–170. doi:10.1656/045.020.0113.  edit
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