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Monkeyface Prickleback

Cebidichthys violaceus

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One glance and you will understand how this fish earned its unusual name. The adults have a large fleshy lump on the top of their head that looks similar to a primate’s nose. The body shape is elongated and eel like, with variable coloring that is generally light to dark brown with two dark bars below each eye. The Monkeyface Prickleback matures in 3-4 years and will grow up to 14 inches (35 cm) in length.

The fish’s diet varies from carnivorous to omnivorous, feeding mainly on crustaceans and algae. They are considered a residential species which travels only short distances from under rocks to foraging sites.

Pricklebacks may remain out of water under rocks or seaweed. It is capable of breathing air and can remain out of water for 15 to 35 hours if kept moist.

Spawning occurs between January and May. The eggs are adhesive and are laid in a ball with an estimated 6000-8000 eggs in a cluster. The eggs are protected by the parents who coil around the egg mass.

Range and Habitat

The Monkeyface Prickleback is found from central Oregon to northern central Baja California. However, it is rare south of Point Conception, California. It is an inshore fish that typically lives in tide pools or shallow rocky areas from the intertidal zone down to a depth of 78 feet (24 m).

Conservation Status

Common.