Friday, April 24, 2009

Courting Tubesnouts

One of my favorite things about working at PTMSC is my nightly ritual of checking the tanks before I leave. I am always looking for issues with flow to the tanks or other plumbing problems, but I am also observing the critters in each tank to see what everyone is up to. Quite regulary, my cell phone will ring during these nightly rounds and it is my husband, asking "When are you coming home?" Usually, I have lost track of time because I was watching something AMAZING!

Last night, I was engaged in this ritual when I noticed a tubesnout (a long skinny fish) in our eelgrass tank with a strange looking white nose. I immediately worried that it was sick and might be dying. As I watched, I realized that this fish was sick--love sick! Okay, I am anthropomorphizing some, but it was a male tubesnout showing off his nest and his flourescent orange pelvic fins to an obviously gravid female--so full of eggs that she was nearly bursting!

You can see in the video that he is showing off the nest, but she is not too interested yet and swims off. According to Andy Lamb and Phil Edgell's book Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest, a mature male, with his flourescent fins and red or blue spots on his body, stakes out a territory among the marine plants and binds the plants together with thread-like strands of sticky genital fluid. He then waits while sucessive mature females parade into his nest, each depositing up to 60 amber colored eggs. The male fertilizes each clutch as it is laid and then stands guard for three weeks until the 1 milimeter long, transparent larvae hatch and swim off in search of food.

When Sue came in for her volunteer docent shift, I started telling her about what I had seen last night. She was gazing at the tubesnouts, when all of the suddent I heard, "She just laid the eggs!" and sure enough, the female deposited her clutch right where the male was showing her. We are waiting like eager grandparents to see what happens over the next three weeks!

Come visit and check it out for yourself!

Chrissy--PTMSC Marine Program Coordinator


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