Creature Feature: Northern Clingfish

Northern Clingfish

The rocky shores are my favorite habitat to visit and talk about. California has beautiful rocky shores with a large biodiversity of organisms.  It is important to talk about tides because they play such an crucial role in this habitat. Tides happen twice a day, where the water rises and falls due to the gravitational pulls of the moon and the sun.  When the water level is high, we experience high tide and the rocky shore is mostly covered by water. As the rotation and the location of the earth and the moon rotate, the tide shifts and the water level then exposes the rocky shore. This is known as low tide. Pools of water gets trapped in between the rock, creating what we know commonly as tidepools.!

Living in the low tide can be very stressful for the rocky shore residents. With little water in which to hide and maneuver, the tidepools become less of a cozy home to the rocky shore creatures and more of an all-you-can-eat buffet for birds. The sun’s heat radiates on these shallow pools, warming them and forcing the fish and invertebrates to adapt. Competition for space and food increases at every low tide. Waves crash over and over against on the rocks, breaking down shells and stones into sand.

Could you imagine living in this nerve-wracking environment? The animals that do have to have some pretty sweet adaptations.  The Northern Clingfish, Gobiesox maeandricus, has many amazing abilities to help it cope with the craziness of the tidepools. Simply put, an adaptation is something one physically has or behaviorally does to help them survive in its environment.

One of the most amazing adaptation the Northern Clingfish possesses is its pectoral and pelvic fins. If you don’t know which fins are the pectoral and pelvic, think of Nemo the clownfish’s “lucky fin.”  His lucky one was a pectoral fin, while the fins, just below them on his belly are pelvic.  Instead of having a pectoral and pelvic fins on both sides of their bodies the Clingfish’s fins are fused together on the bottom, forming a suction cup. This cup enables them to survive in a couple of ways. The first is, of course, the suction aspect. The suction is so hard that through strong current and wave actions, they will not be pulled from off of the rock. The rock might actually move with the fish still attached. The second amazing aspect is that the fins will hold moisture. When the tide goes out, sometimes these fish will be left on a rock with little to no water in their pools. To make sure they do not dry up, they hold moisture in their pelvic fins.


These are some amazing adaptations. Can you think of the amazing adaptations that humans have? Share your ideas with us and others.



Edited by KC O’Shea

Photography by Hayley Usedom


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