You never know what you may see in our local waters. Check out some of the marine life.
(Hemitripterus americanus) is a unique sculpin which has fleshy tabs on its chin that looks like seaweed. It can come in a variety of colours but mostly brown. It is one of our North Atlantic's colourful fish, especially when one sees a red or yellow one! They can grow up to 25 inches and 7 pounds. They eat invertebrates, crustaceans, sea urchins,worms & even fish. They are quire common around the Atlantic coast & usually quite tolerant to being around divers.
(Myoxocephalus scorpius), is a bottom fish and found around rocks & ledges but also on sandy or cobbled bottoms. They are noted for their short spines on their cheeks and gill covers. They are not venomous but they do look a lot like scorpionfish. They are found from the Arctic down as far as New Jersey. They eat crabs, shrimp, small fish, worms and sometimes small lobsters. They will also grab one's finger if waved in their face but their small teeth will not hurt one.
(Myoxocephalus octodecimspinosus) also called Gray Sculpin or Toadhead is much like the Shorthorn but has longer spines on their cheeks and gill covers. It is a bottom fish and found around rocks, ledges, sandy or mud bottom and are often seen when diving around Nova Scotia.They are found from Newfoundland down as far as New Jersey. They eat crabs, shrimp, small fish, worms and sometimes small lobsters. They will also grab one's finger if waved in their face but their small teet
Lumpfish or Lumpsucker (Cyclopterus lumpus) is a bottom dwelling fish with a sucker disc underneath formed by the pelvic fins which allows it to attach to the bottom in rough waves or currents. They range in colours from greenish-black to bright orange or red.They lay their eggs in the Spring and the male stays & guards the eggs & aerates them until they hatch. The eggs also can be a variety of colours ranging from green, pink or black. The male is very aggressive during this time & is not scare
Common Sea Robin (Prionotus carolinus) is like a sculpin but it has its head incased in bony plates. They have large colourful pectoral fins which when spread open look like wings. They were thought to be flying fish but they never leave the water. They use the fins to stir up the bottom to scare prey out of hiding. They are also called gurnard because they often make grunting sounds. They are not commonly seen in Nova Scotia which is at the top of their range down to South Carolina. Will Semple
(Thunnus thynnus) is the largest of the tuna & can be up to 12 feet long & weigh 1,500 pounds. It can swim as fast as 40 miles an hour (64km/hr).They are found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (on the western side from Newfoundland down to Brazil). Its dorsal fin can be hid in a slit to streamline the head for fast swimming. The tuna is also warm blooded which helps in the chilly Atlantic waters. It eats sardines, herring, mackerel, mullet and some squid & crustaceans.
(Macrozoarces americanus) or Eel Pout is a blenny-like fish with big lips and reaching a length of 3.5 feet (1 metre). The fish is usually reddish brown and mottled but could be pale or orange coloured. They range from the Gulf of St. Lawrance to Deleware. They eat a wide variety of mollusks,edhinoderms & invertebrates. They used to be common in shallow waters in the Spring but recently not so common.
(Anarhichas lupus), also called Wolf Eel, Catfish and SeaWolf, is a large blennie-like fish found along the coast from the Arctic to Cape Cod. They are bottom dwelling and eat mollusks, crustaceans and echinoderms which their strong, powerful teeth. After the female lays the eggs, the male stays and guards the eggs until they hatch. The wolffish used come regularly in to shallow water in the Spring but now they are rarely seen. Their numbers have declined due to overfishing.
Snake Blenny (Lumpenus lampretaeformis) is an eel-like fish with a pointed caudal fin. It is found from Greenland to Massachusetts. It feeds on small crustaceans, mollusks, brittle stars and worms.
Northern Pipefish ( Syngnathus fuscus) or Common Pipefish is found in protected bays and harbours, mostly in sea grasses for food and protection. They range from Gulf of St. Lawrence to north Florida. They eat tiny invertebrates and the male has a brood pouch to raise the young like the seahorse.
(Tautogolabrus adspersus) is a common fish, (species of Wrasse) found around our shores from Newfoundland down to Chesapeake Bay, USA. Sometimes called Bergall, Chogse
(Pholis gunnellus) is an eel-like fish found in the intertidal and subtidal zones of the North Atlantic from Greenland to Deleware. It can be various colours of yellow, red, olive or brown and has dark spots along the base of the dorsal fin which runs the length of the body. They eat small crustaceans including amphipods, isopods, polychaetes & mollusks
(Gadus morhua) is a schooling fish found throughout the North Atlantic. It has a chin barbel and a distinct white lateral line. They like to live on rocky habitat and like to eat small fish like haddock, whiting, sand eels, squid, crabs, lobsters, etc. It is a popular food item and was on the endangered list for a while but is slowly recovering
(Scomber scombrus) is a pelagic schooling fish on both sides of the north Atlantic Ocean which migrates north as the water warms for the summer months.The term mackerel means marked or spotted.They have a striped pattern on their backs and a deeply forked tail.
(Brevoortia tyrannus) is a North American species of fish in the herring family found along the coast from Nova Scotia to Florida. They are silver coloured and have a black spot just behind their gill. They can grow up to 15 inches. They are filter feeders and eat mainly zooplankton
(Melanogrammus aeglefinus) is also a member of the Gadoid family and is a bottom-dwelling groundfish. Similar to the Pollock but has a black lateral line & a distinctive dark blotch above the pectoral fin. Its range is from Greenland to North Carolina & on both sides of the Atlantic.
(Pollachius virens) is a cod-like fish which is sometimes called Boston Bluefish. They are greenish brown with a silvery lateral line running down its sides.They eat codopods & crustaceans when young and larger crustaceans and fish like herring, cod, hake and smelts when older. They often hunt in schools and can often be seen chasing sand lances in shallow sandy areas.
(Urophycis chuss), or sometimes called Red Hake is found from southern Newfoundland to Virginia, USA. They have a barbel on their chin as they are a member of the cod family.
(Illex illecebrosus) is a species of squid found in the northwest Atlantic. They are important commercially & are fished heavily. Little is known where they reproduce and is thought to occur in the open ocean near temperature thermoclines perhaps on the continential shelf near the Mid-Atlantic Bight.
(Doryteuthis pealeii) is a common squid found in the North Atlantic. It makes seasonal migrations according to temperatures variances. They live about a year and lay their eggs in gelatinous capsules containing about 200 eggs.
(Ammodytes hexapterus) or sand eels can be found in shallow water. They swim in schools and hide in the sandy bottom from predators such as squid, pollock, cod and even whales. The name Ammodytes means "sand borrower" and can often be seen coming out of the sand when disturbed.
(Asterias vulgaris) is the largest and most common and familiar starfish in the north-east Atlantic. The upper side of its arms have the spines in rows. It is found on rocky & gravel bottoms and eats molluscs and benthic invertebrates.
(Aeolidia papillosa) or Shag-rug Nudibranch is a soft-bodied marine gastropod molluscs.nudibranch comes from the Latin: nudus (naked) and Greek brankhia (gills). It has a large number of flattened cerata on its body and varies in colour from grey to white but sometime other colours depending what it has been feeding on. Its range is from eastern Canada to New England, USA.
A close look at the marine life on the boulders reveals a small white Doris nudibranch (Onchidoris muricata) crawling over the Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) fronds at Paddy's Head.
Nudibranch (Coryphella vurrucosa) climbs out on a stalk of a Tubularian Hydroid (Tubularia spp.) to feed. It is similar to Flabellina but larger in size & has less cerata tips.
(Aphrodita aculeata) is a marine polychaete worm. Its body is covered in a dense mat of hair-like setae. They bury themselves in the sand or mud and feed at night. That is probably why a diver doesn't often see them during the day.
Red Chitons (Ischnochiton ruber) are small molluscs sometimes called sea cradles or coat of mail shells. It has eight separate plates which overlap each other & bend to protect it from predators. They are herbivorous grazers eating algae, diatoms & bryozoans. They can live in the intertidal or subtidal.
Twelve Scaled Worm (Lepidonotus squamatus) are marine annelids which belong to a family of scaled polychaete worms. They have 12 or 13 rows of overlapping scales and move like a centipede.
Banded Chink Snail (Lacuna vincta) or the Northern Lacuna is a marine gastropod mollusk. It is a very small sea snail that is mainly found on algae or Zostera which it feeds on.
Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea) is a small edible snail, a marine gastropod. It is found on rocky shores mainly in the intertidal zone. It is omnivorous but grazes mainly on algae and occasionally on small invertebrates.
Clione limacina) is also called Sea Angel or Sea Slug. It is a mollusk, which is like a snail without a shell and swims in the water column. It is small (~12mm), almost transparent and hard to see and to take a photo of it! Usually found during the colder winter months.
(Pleurobrachia pileus), or sea gooseberries are commonly seen drifting in the ocean water column.They are not jellyfish but are Ctenophores. They have 8 rows of comb-like structures for movement which reflect irridescent light of various colours.
(Bolinopsis infundibulum) is a Ctenophore common in the North Atlantic. It is pear shaped, transparent and has rows of iridescent combs.
(Aurelia aurita ) is the most commonly seen jellyfish. It is translucent and is recognized by its 4 horseshoe-shaped gonads. It does have stinging tentacles for catching prey & ward of predators but the stinging sensations is not very noticable to divers. Sometimes a close look will reveal small paristitic amphipods riding inside or on top of the jellyfish.
(Cyanea capillata) is commonly seen in our waters. It can produce a painful sting to the sensitive exposed parts of our body when touched. They can grow very large and have tentacles very, very long!
Fried Egg Jellyfish (Phacellophora camtschatica) drifts in the ocean with juvenile gadiods hiding in its tentacles for protection. It only has a mild sting. It is a cool water species & found in the North Atlantic. Similar to the Lion's Mane jellyfish but doesn't have the long red tentacles and its gonads are yellowish. This one was photographed off Scotland.
(Haliclystus auricula) is seen living on a blade of kelp. One doesn't think of this as a jellyfish but its life is a polyp stage instead of a medusa stage (free-floating). Most jellyfish have both phases in their life-cycle.
(Tomopteris sp), an almost transparent polychaete about 10cm long, swims in the water column at Paddy's Head. It is common when the water is colder and there are lots of ctenophores (sea gooseberries), clione (sea butterfly) and small jellyfish are in the open water.
(Alitta virens) is a polycheate and an annelid worm that burrows in sand or mud. They have 2 pincer teeth which can bite humans. They are sometimes seen in large numbers, swimming in the water column during Spring months in relation to spawning. During that time their body can be a luminescent purple.
Close-up of the tiny flatworms (Convoluta convoluta) on the Cystocloniun alage. This is another invasive animal species that has come to Canadian waters in the last few years. This photo was taken in August when great numbers covered the algae and other substrates.
A closer view of the invasive flatworm (Convoluta convoluta) at Paddy's Head, Nova Scotia. A small skeleton shrimp peeks out from behind one.
Marine Leeches (Calliobdella nodulifera) are invertebrates which parasitize fish and other animals has a sucker disc at each end of their body. They can move across the fish by going end over end.
(Myxicola infundibulum) are polychaete worms found in mucus tubes on rocky or gravel bottoms. It is a filter feeder with has pinkish tentacles in a circular pattern. The worms are very sensitive to light or movement and will close rapidly into their mucus cocoon.
(Torpedo nobiliana) is an electric ray found in the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to Brazil. It is the largest known electric ray growing up to 6 feet (1.8m) and weighing 200 lbs (90kg). It is capable of producing a discharge of 200 volts. It uses the shock to capture its prey such as flatfish, slamon, mullets, eels and some crustaceans. It usually lives over sandy or muddy bottoms but as an adult it can be found pelagic in deeper waters.
(Leucoraja ocellata) is found on sand or gravel bottom. They have dark spots with some of the markings following the edge of their rounded wingtips. This skate eats mostly amphipods and polychaetes but can also eat small fish, molluscs & invertebrates. It is along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to North Carolina.
(Echinarachnius parma) is an Echinoderm like the sea urchin. It is sometimes called a sea cookie and live an sandy or sometimes mudy areas.They have very short spines which cover the dollar-like exoskeleton which allow it to move and borrow underneath the sediment.
Northern Moon Snail (Lunatia heros) is a large predatory mollusk which feeds on clams and other snails. It is found on sand and mud and sometimes burrows under the substrate either to hide or search for prey.
(Lunatia heros) is a large predatory mollusk which feeds on clams and other snails. It is found on sand and mud and sometimes burrows under the substrate either to hide or search for prey.
(Carcinus maenas) is an invader from Europe that has adapted faily well to our colder waters. It is very fast and aggressive and it eats almost anything in its path such as mussels, clams, oysters, scallops and even lobster. They prefer soft bottoms but can often be seen among rocks and in the seaweed beds. They now can be found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence & Newfoundland down to South Carolina.
(Cancer irroratus) also called Peekytoe occurs along the coast from Larbador to South Carolina. It is found on both rocky and sandy bottoms from the tidal zone down to 2600 feet (790m). They are famous for being a pest for stealing bait from lobster traps but eat a variety of algae, polycheates, mussels, gastropods, crustaceans, etc.
(Cancer borealis) is a rounder stockier crab then the Rock crab with larger thicker claw with black tips but live in similar rocky & sandy areas & depths. It ranges from Nova Scotia to Florida and it is even found in Bermuda.
(Pagurus acadianus) is a reddish-brown decapod crustacean which uses the empty shells of gastropods to protect their vunerable abdomen. They live on gravel and rocky bottom from the intertidal zone to 100m (330 feet) from the Arctic to Chesapeake Bay.They eat both algae & dead animal matter.
(Pagurus arcuatus) is a dull-brown decapod crustacean which has hairy setae on its appendages. Like its larger relative, the Acadian Hermit crab, it uses the empty shells of gastropods to protect their vunerable abdomen. They live on gravel and rocky bottom from the intertidal zone to 100m (330 feet) from the Arctic to Maryland
(Homarus americanus) is a crustacean which is found on the Atlantic coast from Labrador to North Carolina. It can grow up to 44 lbs (20 kg). They have 2 large claws, usually a pincher claw & the other a crusher claw. It eats mollusks, echinoderms & polycheates but are opportunists & eat fish or various other animals that it can catch easily.
(Mola mola), is the heaviest known bony fish in the world, weighing up to 2205 lbs (1000kg). They are found worldwide in both temperate & tropical waters. They are shaped like an oval disc with a fin on top & bottom. Its caudal fin is a lumpy stump which acts like a rudder to steer the fish.They eat mainly jellyfish. They are called sunfish because they like sunbathe at the surface. Their skin is brown to silvery-grey or white. The dorsal fin often sticks above the water sending fe
Violet Tunicate (Botrylloides violaceus) is an invasive colonial tunicate. Observed in Canada in the 1990's. Its colour varies from whitish, yellow, redidsh-brown & violet. Its rapid growth can be a major problem to aquaculture.
Clubbed Tunicate (Styela clava) is an invasive species in Atlantic waters. It is very damaging to the aquaculture industry especially on Prince Edward Island. It is very tough and lives for quite a time out of water.
Sea Vase tunicate (Ciona intestinalis) is a solitary tunicate (sea squirt) found in silty conditions from the surface to500 meters. This tunicate has been a problem to mussel harvesters because it grow in abundance on the mussel socks where predators are lacking. If you look closely, there are several Skeleton Shrimp (Caprella spp.) crawling over and around the tunicate. It's not a shrimp but an ampihod!
Sea Peach Tunicate (Halocynthia pyriformis) are pear shaped tunicates which are filter feeders. Some are solitary and other live in dense clusters. They suck in water in one siphon & expel it out the other. That is how they get the nickname "sea squirts".
Sea Grape (Molgula citrina) is a small opaque-white tunicate with an orange-yellow gonad. This one is seen growing on a blade of Agarum seaweed.
Stalked tunicate (Boltenia oviferia) sometimes called a Sea Potato is often found in deep water & strong currents. It attaches to hard surfaces & often seen on wrecks,
(Metridium senile) or Plumrose anemone with its tentacles out and feeding. It is the most common of our anemones. It lives on rocks and boulders in somewhat stong currents. Its long slender pointed tentacles reach out to catch drifting plankton.
(Prionace glauca) is also a local shark common off Nova Scotia & found worldwide in both Temperate & Tropical waters. They are blueish in colour on top & white underneath. They are long and torpedo-like and can grow up to 12 feet & sometimes longer ones have been reported. Occasionally they can be seen inshore but if you wish to see a Blue shark, one has to go about 10 miles off the coast. They are curious but one has to wait till they are feeding or they will shy away like the dogfish do.
(Cetorhinus maximus) is the second largest fish in the world. The average length of an adult is about 20-26 feet (6-8m). It is a plankton feeder and this species is found in all the world's temperate oceans. They are quite slow feeders with their large gaping mouth filling with plankton but they do have the power to jump completely out of the water like a Great White. They would put a scare into most divers because of their size but they are quite harmless
(Carcharodon carcharias) is one of the largest known and feared predator. It is in both the temperate and tropical waters of all the oceans. Adult sharks can grow up to 21 ft (6.4m) in length. It is the primary predator of marine mammals but also eats fish and seabirds. It is found around Nova Scotia & the other Atlantic provinces. Chance of seeing one diving is extremely rare unless diving among the seal population at Sable Island