Rocky reefs off the Pacific coast of North America are home to a myriad of predators, ranging in size from great white sharks to tiny snails and other very small creatures that hunt other living organisms for sustenance. At the smaller end of the scale among the fish species is the coralline sculpin (Artedius corallinus), an often brightly-colored denizen of the reef. In spite of their bright colors they are often difficult to spot, being a case of hiding in plain sight.
Belonging to the family Cottidae, or cottids for short, coralline sculpin are typically dark grey to brown on the back with purplish-red mottling on the head and back. These bright colors can be seen in today’s photo. The term coralline in this case is a reference to coralline algae that are most typically pink, a color that can be seen most clearly just to the right of the eye on the gill cover. With the almost psychedelic color patterns, and a propensity for hiding among various red algae, these tiny predators, no more that 5.5 inches (14 cm) can pretty much hide in plain sight, waiting for prey to swim by, while simultaneously avoiding predators.
Today’s photo was taken at Talcott Shoals off Santa Rosa Island in Channel Islands National Park with a Canon EF100 mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens with Canon EF12 II and Canon EF25 II extension tubes on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III in an Ikelite underwater housing. Lighting was provided by an Ikelite DS-161 strobe set to eTTL metering. The exposure was set to 1/60 sec at f/9.5 and ISO 400.