Guts and Glory!

Today at the lab we dissected rockfish, and boy were there a lot of them! 112! Most were females with eggs or larvae. We’re doing this to to assess body condition and to study rockfish reproductive patterns to see how changing environmental conditions will affect reproductive success.

Today’s haul were caught at Cordell Bank, an isolated seamount, located about 25 miles off the coast of Pt. Reyes in central California. Ily, a researcher at NOAA/UCSC, took these photos from the collecting trip. Calm seas and lots of fish in the cooler!


At the lab, we had a crew of 11 today dissecting fish, weighing tissues and collecting egg samples. This is the fun and gory part of the job!

Yelloweye Rockfish ready for measurements

Each fish is measured, then our experts start on dissections to carefully remove the gonads, liver, a tissue sample and otoliths (ear bones to age the fish). Most people just consider these parts the “guts”, but it’s what we’re most interested in! Check out this huge female Bocaccio with a stomach full of Shortbelly Rockfish. And yes, some rockfish eat other rockfish for dinner!


Next, it’s all about the ‘nads, the gonads that is! We carefully dissect and weigh the ovaries, then collect the eggs and larvae to estimate how many eggs each fish produced this year. The eggs are preserved and counted by my interns later on. A female rockfish can produce anywhere from 12,000 to over 2 million larvae a year depending on her size and species!


And lastly, what a cutie?! (At least for us a-fish-ionados!) An portrait of the aptly named, Yelloweye Rockfish, taken by my artistically-talented colleague, Neosha Kashef.


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