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Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#706: King Neptune's "Couch" Potatoes

My Dad was quite the couch potato on Sundays. He was glued to the tube to watch "our" Chicago Bears... or the Cubbies. I didn't have TV the past eight or nine years and only rarely even sat on my couch unless I had company. I much preferred to be outside SCUBA Diving. Of course Dad lived much of his life in Chicago where harsh winters largely forced one inside.

King Neptune's realm also has its "couch" potatoes. A number of fish species adopt rather sedentary lifestyles. Of course I think to a degree they are being wise and following the principle of "conservation of energy." Why exert a lot of effort swimming if you don't have to. Save it for the times you need it to dart out after prey... or race away from a hungry predator!

Kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus) often have a habit of "kelp potatoing." They will rest on the fronds of kelp, or on the top of the rocky reef or will duck behind thick kelp in the face of strong currents. California scorpionfish (Scorpaena guttata) also spend most of their time resting on top of the reef... but will quickly dart out to munch since they are ambush predators. However, one of the laziest of our local fish is undoubtedly the kelp rockfish (Sebastes atrovirens).

Kelp rockfish are usually seen resting on the reefs and wrecks, but also up in the kelp. Even when you see them in midwater they seem to be hovering and not burning up much energy by using their fins. About the only time I've seen them truly active was the one day I observed a male courting a female. Divers can approach these extremely sedentary, sluggish fish very closely before they make a half-hearted effort to swim away. Like vampires, they are more active at night.

Often light, nearly white in color, these fish may also be tan, green or mottled brown. They possess large, puppy-like eyes and sharp opercular spines. Kelp rockfish may live 20-25 years and reach lengths of about 16-17 inches. Although they can be found from Timber Cove in northern California to central Baja, they are most common from central California to northern Baja. Kelp rockfish have a preference for habitats with giant kelp. Unlike some of their rockfish relatives, they live in shallow waters down to about 100 ft but have been seen down to over 200 ft.

When hunger strikes, these fish will slowly seek out prey, and adults may ambush edibles if they approach close enough. They chow down on crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs and amphipods as well as snails and small fish. In turn the young are munched by birds, lingcod, cabezon and marine mammals. Seals, dolphins and sharks go after the larger adults.

One great thing about these couch potatoes is that they are much easier to take decent video of... unlike young children, they don't twist and squirm and cry when being photographed. However, having recently spent 11 weeks lying in a hospital bed, the last thing I want is to be sedentary! Give me the active life... even on football weekends. Well, except for the Harvard-Yale game I'll be watching after I finish this!

Harvard-Yale you ask? Well, the most exciting football game I've ever attended was The Game my senior year. Harvard was down 29-13 with 43 seconds left. The Yalies were waving their white handkerchiefs at us from the opposite stands. Then Harvard scored 16 points in less than a minute with the final two point PAT coming with time expired. The Boston Globe newspaper headline the next day read "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29."

© 2016 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. You can also watch these episodes in iPod format on YouTube through my channel there (drbillbushing). Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!

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Kelp rockfish conserving energy in the dive park.

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2016 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia