Field Guide to the Rockfishes (Scorpaenidae) of Alaska

March 18, 2015

The rockfishes (family Scorpaenidae) of the northeast Pacific Ocean north of Mexico comprise five genera, three of which are included in this guide: Sebastes, Sebastolobus, and Adelosebastes. Sebastes includes some 100 species worldwide; 33, including one to be described, are presently recognized from Alaskan waters. Sebastolobus (commonly known as the thornyheads) includes only three species worldwide; all three are found in Alaskan waters. The single species of Adelosebastes (the Aleutian scorpionfish, A. latens) is known only from the Aleutian Islands and Emperor Seamounts. Of the three genera treated here, Sebastes poses the most difficulties in identification, both because of the numbers of species and because of their morphological similarity and variability. This guide includes color images of 37 species photographed under natural and electronic flash conditions in the field. Most specimens were photographed immediately after collection.

The rockfishes (family Scorpaenidae) of the northeast Pacific Ocean north of Mexico comprise five genera, three of which are included in this guide: Sebastes, Sebastolobus, and Adelosebastes. Sebastes includes some 100 species worldwide; 33, including one to be described, are presently recognized from Alaskan waters. Sebastolobus (commonly known as the thornyheads) includes only three species worldwide; all three are found in Alaskan waters. The single species of Adelosebastes (the Aleutian scorpionfish, A. latens) is known only from the Aleutian Islands and Emperor Seamounts. This version of the guide does not include species of the genus Sebastes not known from Alaskan waters. Of the three genera treated here, Sebastes poses the most difficulties in identification, both because of the numbers of species and because of their morphological similarity and variability.

Primarily designed as an aid in field identification, this guide follows the basic format of Hitz’s (1965) "Field identification of the northeastern Pacific rockfish (Sebastodes)," the first guide to successfully use color as a major character to identify species of Sebastes. Since Hitz (1965), significant advances in our knowledge of the diversity of northeast Pacific rockfishes have been made. The genus Sebastodes has been recognized as synonymous with the genus Sebastes, which originally contained only Atlantic species. Ten additional species of Sebastes have been described. This guide also updates species ranges based on the numerous documented significant range extensions. We have also expanded this guide to include the genera Sebastolobus, a genus commonly encountered and misidentified with Sebastes species, and Adelosebastes, recently reported from the Aleutian Islands (Orr and Baker 1996). This revised edition of the guide now includes color photographs of all species encountered in National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) Groundfish surveys and by fishery observers in Alaskan waters.

Last updated by Alaska Fisheries Science Center on 03/18/2019

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