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Eelpouts and Relatives: Zoarcoidei

Ocean Pout (zoarces Americanus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Ocean pouts have a body that is eel-like but rather stout. The background color usually is muddy yellow tinged with brown but becomes darker with age. The belly is yellow or olive green. There are brown splotches on the sides. The dorsal and anal fins are long and low. The pectoral fins large and fanlike. Some ocean pouts have green teeth because they eat sea urchins. Ocean pout scales are tiny and round and do not overlap.

Geographic range: Ocean pouts live along the coast of North America from Labrador, Canada, to Virginia, United States.

Ocean pouts graze on the sea floor for crabs, hermit crabs, sea urchins, worms, clams, sea snails, and sea stars. (©Andrew J. Martinez/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Adult ocean pouts live off shore on sandy or muddy bottoms. The young may come closer to shore and live among seaweed and rocks.

Diet: Ocean pouts graze on the sea floor for crabs, hermit crabs, sea urchins, worms, clams, sea snails, and sea stars.

Behavior and reproduction: Scientists know little about the behavior of ocean pouts. These fish probably live alone and gather only for spawning. Spawning males approach females and roll on their sides or even upside down under the female. The eggs are fertilized inside the female and then laid in rocky areas. After laying her egg mass the female fans the eggs with her fins and wipes her skin over the eggs for about thirty minutes, coating them with protective mucus. She then wraps herself tightly around the mass, helping it stick together in a ball.

Ocean pouts and people: Ocean pouts once were fished for food.

Conservation status: Ocean pouts are not threatened or endangered. ∎



Gilbert, Carter Rowell, and James D. Williams. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes: North America. New York: Knopf, 2002.

Web sites:

Kruse, Katrina. "Wolf-eel Anarrhichthys ocellatus." North American Native Fishes Association. http://www.nanfa.org/fif/wolfeel.shtml (accessed on February 11, 2005).

"The Ocean Pouts and Wolf Eels: Family Zoarcidae." Gulf of Main Research Institute, Fishes of the Gulf of Maine. http://octopus.gma.org/fogm/Zoarcidae.htm (accessed on October 28, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceFish and Other Cold-Blooded VertebratesEelpouts and Relatives: Zoarcoidei - Behavior And Reproduction, Wolf-eel (anarrhichthys Ocellatus): Species Accounts, Ocean Pout (zoarces Americanus): Species Accounts - PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, THEIR RELATIVES EELPOUTS A