I’d like to introduce you to the Northern clingfish (Gobiesox maeandricus)–a most amazing little fish that I discovered recently in a Monterey tidepool. You just never know who will pop up in the intertidal where the sea meets the land. The coolest feature of the clingfish is the suction disk on its belly that it uses to stick itself to slippery surfaces when the waves are crashing about! That disc also holds in moisture so this little fellow can stay out of the water longer than other suction-less fishes. Turns out that disc is actually a pair of modified fins (pelvic fins) and the larger the fish is the stronger the disc can stick—to all sorts of surfaces rough and smooth. Some intrepid biologists measured the fish’s sticking ability and found that one clingfish can generate impressive forces of up to 14–15 Newtons, which is 150 times its own body weight! Now that’s what I call a hefty sucker! Hopefully that sucking ability helps deter predators too—like gopher snakes who have been known to hunt clingfish during low tides. Oh, those crazy snakes!
Northern clingfish don’t get much larger than about 6 in. (17 cm) long and occur from Washington state all the way down to Baja California. Keep your eyes open for them next time you find yourself in the tidepools of Monterey Bay and beyond.