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Resource Ecology & Ecosystem Modeling Program

Ecosystem Ecology

figure 1a, Todd TenBrink
Todd TenBrink
  figure 1b, bigmouth sculpin
bigmouth sculpin
plain sculpin
plain sculpin
  figure 1d, warty sculpin
warty sculpin
figure 1e, great sculpin
great sculpin
  figure 1f, yellow Irish lord
yellow Irish lord
Figure 1.  AFSC scientist Todd TenBrink conducts analysis of stomach specimens from yellow Irish lord (top left photo.)  Five sculpin species studied are also pictured: bigmouth sculpin, plain sculpin, warty sculpin, great sculpin, and yellow Irish lord.

REEM researchers completed a 2-year project funded by the NPRB to investigate the age, growth, maturity, reproductive biology, and diet of five sculpin species: plain sculpin (Myoxocephalus jaok), great sculpin (M. polyacanthocephalus), warty sculpin (M. verrucosus), yellow Irish lord (Hemilepidotus jordani), and bigmouth sculpin (Hemitripterus bolini) (Fig. 1). These species contribute approximately 95% of the sculpin biomass within the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) region.

Sculpins occupy depths from nearshore sand and mud bottom waters at 20 m (plain sculpin) to below 1,000 m (darkfin sculpin, Malacocottus zonurus) along broad sloping and steep canyon areas. Size ranges observed for sculpins are less than 10 cm found in Artediellus to 80 cm for the great sculpin.

Biomass estimates for the BSAI region have exceeded 200,000 metric tons (t). Although sculpins are most common along the eastern Bering Sea continental shelf, unique assemblages appear to be present within the shelf and slope areas of the eastern Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands.

Because of their abundance, sculpins are an ecologically important component in the eastern Bering Sea with some species feeding heavily on commercially caught snow and Tanner crabs, (Chionoecetes spp.) and juvenile pollock (Theragra chalcogramma).

By Kerim Aydin and Todd TenBrink

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