This is a typical sculpin, with large, fan-like pectoral fins and big eyes located
high on a flat head. One short "horn" in front of each eye and two behind the
eyes gives this fish its common name. Its mouth is large and the upper jaw protrudes
slightly. Its first dorsal fin is spiny, while the second is soft rayed. Shorthorn
sculpins are dark green or brown above with a yellowish underbelly. Variable dark
bars and mottling are always present.
This sculpin has an extensive distribution in the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans
and occurs in the waters off Alaska, in Hudson Bay, and around Baffin Island.
Its range continues south along the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland to the
Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is also common off the coast of Nova Scotia and in the
waters of Greenland, Iceland, Siberia, and northern Europe. The shorthorn sculpin
is restricted to marine environments where it prefers cool water with weedy bottoms.
They are sluggish bottom dwellers, found to depths of 37 metres. When disturbed,
these fish use their large pectoral fins to move slowly and for short distances.
They are voracious, opportunistic predators, consuming crabs, shrimp, sea urchins,
herring, small cod, marine worms, amphipods, and gastropods.
Although spawning varies with location, mating generally lasts for about one month
in early winter. Each pair chooses a shallow, rocky-bottomed area with a V-shaped
crevasse where the female sheds anywhere from 4,000 to 60,000 adhesive eggs. The
male remains nearby to protect, fan, and clean the eggs for three months until
they hatch, while the female returns to deeper water. The mortality of shorthorn
sculpin eggs is low because of the male's guarding behaviour. Juveniles remain
near the bottom, for protection. Sexual maturity is reached between the age of
4 and 8 years and the average life span is 15 years. Death is often due to infection
by parasitic nematodes.
The shorthorn sculpin is of little economic importance,
but was once used as bait for lobster traps. Recently, these fish have been used
for biological research, providing insights into cell structure and the effects