ocellatus (aka northern wolffish,
Despite its name, the wolf eel
is not an eel, nor does it look even remotely
like a wolf. The "eel" part of its name
is explained by its eel-like body, which can be
up to 8 feet long, while the "wolf"
part refers to it being a member of the wolffish
Juvenile wolf eels are burnt to
bright orange in color. That coloration changes
to gray for males for females and brown for
females. Both sexes have spot patterns around the
eyes that are distinctive to each individual.
Like many eels, wolf fish have
a dorsal fin that stretches from the head to the
end of the body. The large pectoral fins have 18
to 24 rays, and the long anal fin has 180 to 230
soft rays. There are no pelvic fins.
The most prominent features of
the wolf fish are its robust head and strong jaws
capable of crushing shells. Males have thicker
jaws, as well as a bulging forehead. The wolf
eel's mouth and jaws are so robust, in fact, that
they are virtually impenetrable, even to the very
sharp spines that adorn the urchins they love to
Adult wolf eels live in
shallow, cold, coastal waters from the Sea of
Okhotsk and Sea of Japan to the Aleutian Islands
and along the western coast of North America to
Baja California. Although occasionally found as
deep as 740 feet, they are most common in
sheltered, rocky, sub-tidal areas or near rocky
structures in areas with sandy bottoms. Juveniles
spend the first two years of the lives drifting
before moving into shallow waters.
Adult wolf eels feed primarily
on hard-shelled invertebrates, with a particular
fondness for sea urchins and crabs, but will also
take the occasional fish. These are eaten with
the help of conical teeth that hold the prey and
huge molars that can easily crush through shells.
Juveniles feed almost exclusively on zooplankton.
Wolf eels begin forming
monogamous pairs at about 4 years of age. While
most mating pairs will stay together for life, it
is not uncommon for some wolf eels, both male and
female, to change partners fairly abruptly, and
some males may even have a "mistress"
Spawning begins in October and
continues into December. The female produces up
to 10,000 eggs, which are fertilized externally
by the male and then "herded" into a
mass. The mass does not need to adhere to
anything because the parents will take
turns wrapping their tails around it, holding and
turning it for good aeration. The eggs hatch at
91 to 112 days, at which time parental
Wolf eels remain in
their rock crevices during the day and emerge to
forage at night. They roam widely looking for
prey, but have a great deal of site fidelity,
returning to the daytime dens and inhabiting them
for long periods of time. Vacated dens are
rapidly inhabited by other wolf eels, though, so
they may patrol potential den sites regularly.
They seem to be territorial, aggressively
defending their den area.
Wolf eels swim by making deep S-shapes with
their bodies, like a snake moving across the
When threatened, wolf eels approach the threat
with the mouth held open, displaying the teeth.
genus & species Anarrhichthys ocellatus
The Marine Detective http://themarinedetective.com/2013/02/17/wolf-eel-no-ugly-fish/
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