Slimy Snailfish     Liparis mucosus



This little fellow, around 3/4 of an inch long, approached the underwater light used to attract fish and other animals at Boston Harbor Marina north of Olympia, Washington.  It has a very unusual anatomical feature in that its has a large sucker on it's belly.  The sucker is formed from modified pelvic fins and is used to attach to vegetation or rocks to prevent currents or waves from washing it away.  There are some 13 species in the nearshore area of the north Pacific Ocean, most of which are under 6 inches.  A number of other species occur only in deep water and are seldom seen.  Snailfish are close relatives of sculpins and occur only in the north Pacific ocean from Alaska to Baja Mexico. 


The slimy snailfish can grow to around 3 inches.  Like other snailfish the dorsal and anal fins run the length of the tadpole-shaped body from the gut area to the tail.  The skin is loose and thin with a jelly-like consistency and lacks scales.  The pectoral fins are large and are the main method of locomotion.  It  has large sensory pores under the chin which are part of the lateral line system.  The mouth is moderate in size with small teeth and it probably feeds on small worms and crustaceans.  It occurs from the intertidal zone to depths of some 12 feet.  All species lay only a few large eggs which means that when the young fish hatch they are probably well developed allowing them to more readily escape predation and feed themselves.  One species has an unusual behavior in that the male incubates the eggs in it's mouth.