Monkeyface Prickleback

Monkeyface Prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus) as seen in our Rocky Shores exhibit.

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 fish’s diet varies from carnivorous to omnivorous, feeding mainly on crustaceans and algae. They are considered a residential species that exhibit only small movements under rocks to foraging sites. Pricklebacks may remain out of water under rocks or seaweed. It is an air breather and can remain out of water for 15-35 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 tended by a parent, presumably the female, by coiling around the egg mass. The Monkeyface Prickleback matures in 3-4 years. The total length ranges from 11 to 14 inches (28 to 35 cm).

Range & 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 up to a depth 78 feet (24 m).

Conservation Status