- Published on Thursday, 02 August 2012 20:16
- Written by Andy Lamb
In the December 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 12) edition of Northwest Dive News, the scalyhead sculpin was featured as a ‘cleaner’ species. Jan Kocian’s excellent image photo-documented this small fish in the open maw of a co-operative lingcod at popular Keystone Jetty, on Whidbey Island. Since that time and at the same location, photographer Jan has also verified via that the longfin sculpin Jordania zonope (image G, page 217 in Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest) also spends time removing parasites from the apparently oft infested lingcod.
With the accompanying images, diver/photographer Rob Roy of Vancouver, B.C. has added yet another ‘cleaner’ to the roster of fastidious lingcod groomers. While enjoying a B.C. dive holiday with Rob and Amanda Zielenski and Hornby Island Charters, Rob accompanied by buddy Chris Hall of Edmonton, Alberta was able to verify this relationship before the longfin gunnel Pholis clemensi bolted for cover. The images were taken at 70 ft (21 m) at Flora Islet -- and during that same dive, Rob observed another lingcod with mouth agape but containing no longfin gunnel. Rob Zielenski noted that a large recognizable rock marks this particular dive site leading to speculation about it being a specific cleaning station. More dives there could further support this reasonable hypothesis – contact the Zilenskis if this tweaks your interest.
Rob’s images confirm an observation by Phil Edgell (Coastal Fishes co-author) from about 40 years ago! While diving at Lion Islet, in B.C.’s Gulf Islands, Phil noticed a similar event. Unfortunately, the skittish longfin gunnel left the critical spot to settle just in front of the lingcod before definitive evidence could be captured. Phil’s ‘boobie prize’ photograph is image D on page 132.
Incidentally, for those of you looking for a cleaner relationship to get into, why not follow some kelp perch Brachyistius frenatus (Coastal Fishes, page 96/97) around? This species has been reported as to remove parasites from infected fishes in California, but as yet, this activity has not been confirmed in our corner of the Pacific Northwest.