They're some of the strangest—but cutest—animals ever to visit the Aquarium of the Bay. Learn all about the lumpsuckers!

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Aquarium of the Bay
February 26, 2018
They're some of the strangest—but cutest—animals ever to visit the Aquarium of the Bay. Learn all about the lumpsuckers!

Meet the Lumpsuckers

Joining the extended family of river otters, jellies, and octopuses now on display at the Aquarium of the Bay are Pacific spiny lumpsuckers. These tiny, balloon-shaped fish have modified pelvic fins that have evolved into sticky discs on the undersides – so they're literally lumps with suckers (albeit very cute ones).

These adaptations come in very handy. They enable the fish to anchor themselves to rocks, kelp, or other seaweed. They have a surprisingly wide range of habitat, from the Northern California coast to the Aleutian Islands and Japan, despite being inefficient swimmers.

Another oddity about the spiny lumpsucker is that the male handles all the childcare. During mating season, he prepares the nest to attract a female. Once the female chooses her favorite nest, she lays up to 350,000 eggs and swims off forever. The male will fertilize the eggs, then suction himself to the nest for three to eight weeks, aerating the eggs and protecting them from predators until they hatch.

As tiny as they are, lumpsuckers are fun to watch because they have large, expressive eyes and float around like balloons with little fans. Their best defense: their spiny outgrowths that come in a wide range of colors, which blend in with the seabed.

Access to the lumpsucker exhibit in the Under the Bay's Octupus & Friends gallery is included with general admission purchase at the aquarium. The Aquarium of the Bay is conveniently located on PIER 39, alongside the Embacadero and adjacent to Fisherman's Wharf. For more on the Aquarium, including hours and ticket availability, as well as please visit the Aquarium of the Bay online.

For an in-depth look at the aquarium, a behind-the-scenes tour offers guests the opportunity to learn more about how to take care of the more than 20,000 marine animals at the aquarium, including leopard sharks, jellies, and much more.

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