Arctic sculpin, Myoxocephalus scorpioides

Arctic Sculpin, Myoxocephalus scorpioides

The arctic sculpin is found throughout the Canadian Arctic, from Ellesmere Island south to James Bay and from the Bering Sea east to Greenland. It is dark olive to blackish-brown in colour with darker mottling or banding. Males have rows of clear spots on their pectoral fins, while females have dark bands. The male also has dark-bordered white or silvery spots under its pectoral fins and above its anal fin, dark spots on its breast, lower lip, and reddish-orange belly, and a broad white stripe on its belly running from its pelvic fins to its anal fin.

The arctic sculpin is characterized by having three preopercular spines, a dorsal fin which does not originate noticeably anterior to the rear edge of its operculum, and tabs or cirri over its eyes. It also has a lateral line which lacks plates, and teeth on the vomer bone of the roof of its mouth but not on the palatine bone.

Arctic sculpins inhabit shallow intertidal waters, where they hunt for crustaceans on rocky, algae-covered bottoms. They spawn in the fall and grow to a length of 30 cm. Their eggs, up to 1.3 mm in diameter, are found on or near the bottom. Little is known about this fish other than its capacity to tolerate temperatures below freezing. In order to live under the ice, the Arctic sculpin must be able to survive in temperatures as cold as -1.4C. As the water temperature drops, the concentration of a specific antifreeze protein in its blood increases. This protein prevents ice from forming in the sculpin's tissues, allowing it to resist temperatures as low as -2C.