© Joseph Dougherty. All rights reserved.
Muricea californica Aurivillius, 1931
California Golden Gorgonian
Semicossyphus pulcher (Ayres, 1854)
Female sheephead wrasse and golden gorgonians in the kelp forest off Catalina Island, CA.
Like many wrasse species, sheephead are protogynous. All are born female, and the largest individuals become male due to hormonal changes that are triggered by social cues. The two sexes have extremely different appearances so this transition is among the most dramatic among the wrasses. Because only large individuals are male, setting minimum catch sizes has made populations mostly female and with a negative effect on population sizes.
kelp forestgiant kelpmacrocystiscalifornia underwaterChannel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuarymarine sanctuariesmarine parkChannel IslandsCatalinacatalina islandrocky reefsmarine fishLabridaesheepsheadcalifornia sheepshead
From Catalina Island -- Peace Dive Boat -- June 2013