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Fishy Success Story

Polar Zone exhibit gallery, Extreme Zone, Ecosystems, California Science Center, photo by Laurel Bartels

Cabezon eggs at one week old, magnified on a monitor in the lab. The dark spots are the cabezons' developing eyes.

We have two new residents in the kelp tankand they were conceived right here at the Science Center! In January 2011, our staff noticed that some of our fish called cabezons had laid some eggs in the large kelp tank. A male cabezon was guarding the eggs, just like he would in the wild. Finding the eggs in the kelp tank was an amazing development, and Science Center staff immediately went about the task of determining the best way to help these eggs hatch and grow.

Because cabezons have a complicated life cycle, they require specialized care as they develop. So we sent about 200 of the cabezon eggs to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro to hatch and grow. Once at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, about 150 of the eggs hatched, and 82 of the hatchlings reached the age where they could settle in a kelp forest. In June 2011, six of the cabezon fry (baby fish) were brought back to the Science Center to continue to grow, while the other 76 were released into the wild. That means 76 cabezon swimming in the ocean were hatched from eggs laid in the Science Center's kelp tank!

Of the six cabezon that came back to the Science Center to finish growing, two have already grown big enough to be placed back in our kelp tank. The other four can go on display in the smaller tanks until they are ready to be moved, too. So on your next visit, see if you can spot some cabezon in our tanks--they are among the first Science Center natives!

Polar Zone exhibit gallery, Extreme Zone, Ecosystems, California Science Center, photo by Laurel Bartels

One of the juvenile cabezons settles into its home in the kelp tank.

Special thanks to many of our staff and staff from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium who participated in the successful raising of the cabezons. Our guest services staff noticed the courting behavior of the cabezons and the first egg mass. Curator Dr. Chuck Kopczak developed signage to point out the egg mass and the male cabezon guarding them to Science Center guests. Aquarist Erin Kageno and senior aquarist Mark Loos were the first to try to raise the cabezon fry here at the Science Center, and also made contact with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium to get help with the process and arrange for the fry to be raised there.

At the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Cora Webber and Ben Higgins, under the supervision of Dr. Kiersten Darrow, raised the cabezon fry from hatching to the settlement stage, where they could be released into the wild or transferred back here to the Science Center.

Once the cabezon were back at the Science Center, aquarists Crystal Gentle, Megan Olhasso and Cora Webber were instrumental in raising the juvenile fish to the point where they could be placed in the exhibit. Chris Mirabal and Tony Sun took on extra work so that other staff aquarists could focus on the cabezon project. Living species coordinator Misha Body documented the process, and husbandry supervisor David Place ensured that the project was supported. Thanks to you all for your dedication to this exciting project!