A juvenile sheephead is a pretty little girl.

This weeks foray into the kelp forest presents us with one of the most versatile and important residents of California’s nearshore waters, the Sheephead. A large member of the wrasse family, this hermaphroditic species feeds mainly on urchins and other shellfish, keeping populations in check and rocky reefs healthy. These guys are considered a fairly vulnerable species to the pressures of recreational fishing with mainly large males being targeted, resulting in an imbalance in the populations male-to-female ratio when it’s time to reproduce. Next time you’re out there and you come across a large urchin barren, such as the ones you find off Palos Verdes, look around for Sheephead. Then look some more. You probably won’t find many. Healthy Sheephead populations mean healthier reefs and kelp forests. The more you know.

A large male takes care of a purple urchin.
A female swimming by a red gorgonian.

 

 

 

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