sculpin, common name for a member of the superfamily Cottoidea, bizarre fishes with large, spiny or armored heads and short, tapering bodies, found in both marine and freshwater habitats. The sculpins include species known as muddlers (i.e., the mottled sculpin) and some species called bullheads (i.e., the deepwater bullhead sculpins). Sculpins are cosmopolitan in arctic and northern waters. They feed at the bottom on crabs and small fishes. Of little food value, they are occasionally used as bait. The longhorn sculpin (1 ft/30 cm) and the shorthorn sculpin have sharp spines on the head. Sculpins have no scales, but are variously adorned with prickles on the head and fins. The sea raven has large teeth and a prickly skin and swells when caught. The cabezon of the Pacific reaches a weight of 25 lb (11.3 kg). The muddlers are a widespread freshwater group found in northeastern and Mississippi basin streams with gravel bottoms. They have huge pectoral fins shaped like butterfly wings with which they hang onto stones. The fatheads, or fathead sculpins, include the blobfish, a deep-sea fish found off Australia and New Zealand, whose large head and pink gelatinous flesh can assume a sad humanlike appearance out of water. The grotesque sea robins and flying gurnards, with fins modified into
talonsfor creeping on the ocean floor, resemble the sculpins but belong to families not classified in the superfamily Cottoidea. Sculpins are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Scorpaeniformes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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