California Sheephead (Female)
- Adult females look very different than males (#22).
- Adult females are fully pink with white underbelly.
- Adult females are smaller than males.
- Can grow to be 3 feet long and weigh 35 pounds.
- Protruding teeth used to prey on hard-shelled organisms.
- Juveniles are bright reddish-orange with large black spots on fins and a white stripe down their side.
- Point Conception, California to Guadalupe Island, Baja California, Mexico.
- Gulf of California, Mexico.
- Found in rocky reefs and kelp forests.
- Found at depths of 10-100 feet.
- Mating season is June to September.
- During mating season the male becomes territorial of its spawning territory.
- Dominant male leads female in circular pattern as they broadcast sperm and eggs into the water.
- If a smaller male approaches, the larger male will chase him away.
- The female can spawn up to 375,000 eggs in one day.
- Sea urchins, bivalves, barnacles, and bryozoans (microscopic aquatic invertebrates).
- Harbor seals and sea lions.
- California sheephead are all born female but often become male later in life!
- They can live to be 53 years old, which is very old for a fish.
- At night, they hide in crevices and wrap themselves in a mucus cocoon to hide their scent from predators.
- Sheepshead often get a parasitic flatworm, but the mutualistic señorita fish will clean it off of their skin and gills.
Sources: California Sea Grant; Monterey Bay Aquarium
Photo: Howard Hall
Try to spot a live Sheephead on Birch Aquarium’s Kelp Cam!