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Arctic sculpin Cottunculus microps Collett 1875

[Jordan and Evermann, 1896-1900, p. 1992.]

Arctic sculpin (Cottunculus microps)

Figure 236.—Arctic sculpin (Cottunculus microps), continental slope off southern New England. From Goode and Bean. Drawing by H. L. Todd.


The head spines so characteristic of most sculpins, are reduced in this species to bony knobs, of which there are four on the top of the head and several on its sides. The two portions of the dorsal fin (spiny and soft) are united into one continuous fin, a feature that marks it off from all other local sculpins, while the spiny part (only 6 to 8 spines) is shorter and lower than the soft part (13 to 15 rays). But the very large bony head, wide mouth, slender tapering body, large fan-shaped pectorals, and the location of the ventrals below the pectorals, give the fish the typical sculpin aspect. The anal fin (about 10 rays) is a little shorter than the soft portion of the dorsal fin, and the caudal fin is small and rounded. The skin is roughened with small warts.


Described as pale with dusky crossbars, one on the head, two on the body and fins, and one at the base of the caudal fin. Scandinavian specimens have been reported as having still another band across the tip of the caudal, and as with the anal and pectoral fins dark mottled.[5]


Up to about 8 inches long.

General range and occurrence in the Gulf of Maine—

This is an Arctic deep-water species, known off east Greenland and about Spitzbergen in the Arctic Ocean, and from both sides of the northern Atlantic. On the eastern side it has been reported from northern Iceland, from Norwegian waters southward to the Channel, and doubtfully from the Skagerak. Off the American coast it [page 454] has been taken at numerous localities on the continental shelf and slope to abreast of New Jersey in depths of 122 to 487 fathoms. Only two of the earlier published records fall within the geographic limits covered by this report, one in the extreme southeast corner of the basin of the Gulf (latitude 42°23', longitude 66°23') in 141 fathoms, the other in the eastern channel between Browns and Georges Banks (latitude 42°15', longitude 65°48') in 122 fathoms. But we trawled one about 2 inches long, on the northern slope of Georges Bank, in 120 fathoms of water, on July 24, 1931, which (with earlier captures) shows that it is to be expected anywhere in the deep basin of our Gulf, at depths greater than 100 fathoms.[6] Nothing is known of its habits.

[5] Smitt, Scandinavian Fishes, vol. 1, 1892, p. 158.

[6] Goode and Bean, Smithsonian Contrib. Knowl; vol. 30, 1895, p. 270, list the earlier American records.