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"Jay DeLong" <jdelong at nwifc_wa.gov>: NANFA-- Sculpin Identification

mthennet at netrix_com said:
>From what I understand the different species can be identified 
>easier by its teeth and the development of their prickles and 
>spines but I am an aquarist and not a scientist.  That may explain 
>my use of a magnifying glass as opposed to a microscope.
> Generally speaking, the Genus Cottus seems to be one tough cookie 
>to identify properly.

Here in Washington that genus is common and we've got about a dozen 
species.  They're a headache to identify, though.  A 1996 book called 
"Sculpin identification workshop and working guide to freshwater 
sculpins of Oregon and adjacent areas" describes 19 sculpins, and 
it has helped me with sculpin identification, but still there are 
many characteristics which can't be easily seen in the field.

Cottus rhotheus, the torrent sculpin, is the one I collect most often 
near my home, and I can't identify it at times.  When I collect it 
from swift-flowing water I almost always see the characteristic 
forward-slanting saddles under the second dorsal fin.  But, I 
sometimes find it in slower or still water, and the saddle marks are 
less obvious or non-existent.  After I hold the fish for awhile in a 
bucket, the marks become visible, so you can speculate what is going 
on there.

A non-game fish biologist with the WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife told 
me they have had to send specimens to Carl Bond at Oregon State 
University for identification, so even these folks are having trouble 
identifying sculpins.  Carl Bond was a co-author of the sculpin guide 
I mentioned and a living legend in the native fish arena.

We have undescribed sculpin species here also.  In The Inland Fishes 
of Washington, the authors mention an undescribed pelagic sculpin in 
Lake Washington.  It seems curious that no one has described the fish 
considering its location.   Seattle is on Lake Washington, as is the 
University of Washington.  Also, the book was published by the 
University of Washington Press.

Jay DeLong
Olympia, WA

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