Atlantic warbonnet, Chirolophis ascanii.
Atlantic Warbonnet, Chirolophis ascanii

This species is easily distinguished from the other Atlantic shannies by its fleshy, fingerlike appendages known as cirri. The most prominent cirri occur on the top of its head, resembling curly antennae, but there are other small cirri on the head and dorsal fin spines. The dorsal fin possesses 50–54 rays and runs the length of the back, ending at the caudal peduncle. Its caudal fin is rounded and not attached to either the dorsal or anal fins, while the anal fin consists of numerous stiff rays and runs nearly the entire length of the underbelly. The pelvic fins are much reduced, while the pectoral fins are small and fan-like. The body colouration is yellowish-brown with bright, red-brown lines and dark blotches or bands. A dark ring around the eye continues ventrally to the cheek bar.

The Atlantic warbonnet, which rarely grows larger than 25 cm, occurs from Baffin Island south to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and southeastern Newfoundland, as well as in the eastern North Atlantic. As Canadian specimens consist entirely of small, young fish, most research on this species has taken place in Europe. Warbonnets are usually found in rocky areas among seaweed at depths of 20–400 m where they feed on molluscs, sponges, hydroids, and algae. In Europe, spawning takes place from October to November, when females deposit flattened masses of eggs, each measuring 2.3–2.8 mm, on rocks. Once hatched, the young drift into the upper water column in search of food.