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What is a Sea Raven?

By R. Britton
Updated May 21, 2024
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The sea raven is a fish that has the scientific name of Hemitripterus americanus and has many other common names, including the puff belly, whip sculpin, sea hen and scratch belly. The sea raven can be divided into three genera, and there are eight species altogether. This spiny fish normally is found along the Atlantic coast of North America and in the northern Pacific Ocran.

These fish range in color from a deep red to yellowish brown, and they usually have a yellow belly. The upper side of the sea raven is rough in texture, because it has very small prickles all along it back. The body of the fish is stouter than most other sculpin, and it has a large head with many rows of sharp teeth. The most distinctive feature of this fish is the fleshy tabs that hang from the sea raven's lower jaw and in front of its eyes. When the sea raven is caught by a fisherman, it fills itself up with air and water, similar to a puffer fish, and the fish needs to be burped before being thrown back in the water to enable it to swim again normally.

The sea raven fish are bottom feeders and prefer to live amongst the rocks at the bottom of the sea. They live in areas of water that are more than 6.5 feet (2 meters) in depth. These fish prefer the water temperature to be no more than 57 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius).

A voracious feeder, the sea raven it eats large quantities of food and will eat any invertebrates, even those larger than itself. The ability to camouflage helps the fish when capturing other fish that it eats, including herring and silver hake. They also eat crabs, lobsters and clams as well as sea urchins.

The sea raven breeds from mid-autumn to mid-winter throughout its normal geographical range. The female fish lays its eggs, which number around 200 in each cluster, on the branches of the finger sponge Chalina. The eggs are fairly large in size with a strong protective membrane and are yellow when they are spawned but soon change to an amber color. Female adults contain more than 15,000 eggs, so it is believed the female deposits her eggs in many clusters throughout the spawning season.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a Sea Raven?

A Sea Raven is a type of fish belonging to the Hemitripteridae family, known for its unique and somewhat prehistoric appearance. These bottom-dwelling fish are found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They have large heads, elongated bodies, and are covered in prickly skin rather than scales.

How does the Sea Raven differ from other fish?

Sea Ravens are distinctive due to their lack of scales and presence of bony plates and spines on their skin, which gives them a rough texture. They also have a flexible jaw and an expandable stomach, enabling them to consume prey nearly as large as themselves. Their pectoral fins are large and wing-like, aiding in maneuvering along the seabed.

What do Sea Ravens eat?

Sea Ravens are carnivorous and opportunistic feeders. They primarily prey on other fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Their diet consists of whatever marine creatures they can catch within their habitat, using their large mouths and sharp teeth to snatch unsuspecting prey, as noted by marine biologists studying their feeding habits.

Where can Sea Ravens be found?

Sea Ravens inhabit the cold, temperate waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. They are benthic, meaning they live on or near the ocean floor, often found at depths ranging from the intertidal zone to over 2,000 feet deep, according to oceanographic surveys.

Are Sea Ravens important to their ecosystem?

Yes, Sea Ravens play a significant role in their ecosystem as both predators and prey. They help maintain the balance of marine life by preying on various species, and they are also a food source for larger predators. Their presence indicates a healthy, diverse ocean floor habitat.

Is the Sea Raven endangered?

Currently, Sea Ravens are not classified as endangered. They do not have a high commercial value, which reduces the risk of overfishing. However, like many marine species, they could be affected by changes in ocean conditions, pollution, and habitat destruction. Continuous monitoring is essential to ensure their populations remain stable.

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Discussion Comments

By dill1971 — On Oct 24, 2010

@medicchristy: I would guess that it was just a normal sea raven. The first couple of spines of the first dorsal fin are long, the next few are shorter, and then the next are longer. The fin has an outline unlike any other sculpin.

The sea raven has very distinctive features, including fleshy tabs, simple and branched, on its head. There are 4 to 8 of those tabs along each side of the lower jaw, three pairs on top of the snout, and others above and in front of the eyes and the upper jaw.

By medicchristy — On Oct 24, 2010

I saw a picture of a sea raven and it appeared as though the spines were broken on the dorsal fin because they seemed to range in size. Is that normal or had this fish possibly been attacked?

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