Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Labridae (Wrasses)

Genus/species: Semicossyphus pulcher

California sheephead IMG_5773

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Length to 91 cm (36 in), weight to 16kg (35 lbs). Body is fusiform, deeply, compressed. Males are larger, with black tail and head sections with wide, reddish-orange midriff and white chins,. Adult females reddish-brown. Caudal fin almost square. Juveniles are brick-red on sides with white stripe and a black spot on its tail.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Monterey Bay, California to Baja California, Mexico on rocky bottoms or in kelp forests and shallow reefs to 55 m, typically 3 (10 ft)–30 m (!00 ft).

DIET IN THE WILD: Hard-shelled prey (sea urchins, barnacles, clams, gastropods, mussels, lobsters and crabs) crushed with tooth-plates in rear of mouth. Also take octopuses and various worms; can pry prey from substrate with canine teeth.


REPRODUCTION: Protogynous hermaphrodite. Individuals initially female, change to males at about 30 cm and 8 years old. Sex change metamorphosis takes less than one year.

PREDATORS/MORTALITY: Can live to more than 50 years, in ideal areas although this rarely happens now. During the night, they move to crevices and wrap themselves in a mucus cocoon so predators can’t detect them.

CONSERVATION: The California Department of Fish and Game restricts the catch size to prevent over fishing.

REMARKS: Large teeth can cause serious bite wounds.

California Coast CC19

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