The Lumpsucker Cyclopterus lumpus

Wildlife of the Solway Firth by Mark Vollers 

The Lumpsucker Cyclopterus lumpus

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Who would have thought such an amazing looking fish could be found in the Solway Firth…..reaching a size of up to 50 cm and several kilos in weight. The lumpsucker is so called because it has specially adapted ventral fins that allow it to ‘suck’ onto smooth surfaces, and so avoid being swept along by the current.

Maybe because of this adaptation it does not have to be strong swimmer…it simply waits for it’s food ( small crustaceans, jellyfish) to come within grabbing range and then it darts out.  It is found all around Britain, but thought to breed only in cooler northern waters.

Normally solitary and found in deeper waters ( to 300m) they come inshore about February to breed, laying an egg mass just below the high tide mark among rocks and kelp, the female leaving the male to guard them for 6-7 weeks before they hatch. 

Stormy weather can sometimes cast both fish and eggs on the shoreline, and some years ago at Maryport Aquarium we were able to rescue an egg mass after such an event and successfully hatch out thousands of amazingly cute little tadpole shaped fry which charmed everyone who saw them. Local trawlers sometimes snag an unsuspecting male inshore, so the aquarium normally has them on display, where they are soon tame enough to take food from your hand.

  In Scandinavia they are an important part of the cuisine, in particular the eggs which are prepared and eaten in a similar fashion to caviar, at a much more affordable price!

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