Atlantic Wolffish | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Atlantic Wolffish

Anarhichus lupus

Also known as

Striped wolffish, seawolf, seacat, ocean catfish

Distribution

Cold temperate to subpolar north Atlantic Ocean

Ecosystem/Habitat

Rocky reefs and hard bottoms

Feeding Habits

Aggressive predator

Conservation Status

Special concern/data deficient

Taxonomy

Order Cottiformes (sculpins & relatives); Family Anarhichadidae (wolffishes)

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With even just a brief glance, you can quickly figure out how the Atlantic wolffish was named. their large, canine-like teeth protrude from their mouths, giving them a wolf-like scowl. Behind these visible primary canine teeth are a cluster of five or six smaller canines, as well as three sets of crushing teeth on the roof of their mouths, used to grindhard-shelled prey. In spite of their slightly ferocious appearance and large teeth, Atlantic wolffish are not aggressive. They feed on slow-moving or sedentary prey such as sea urchins, crabs, molluscs and large snails. Atlantic wolffish are also incredibly well-adapted for cold water conditions, able to survive in water below 0°C, thanks to high concentrations of an antifreeze compound in their blood.

Atlantic wolffish are a fairly large fish with an elongated, tapering body and weigh up to almost 20 kilograms. Their heads are relatively large compared to their bodies and they have blunt, rounded snouts with sharp, protruding teeth. Their dorsal fins run down their back, starting behind the head and extending all the way to the tail fin, however they lack pelvic fins which most fish have. Atlantic wolffish are typically a light greyish-green colour, but can range from olive green to purplish- or reddish-brown. They are one of three species of wolffish that can be found in Atlantic Canada, the other two being Spotted and Northern. Atlantic wolffish can be distinguished from their wolffish cousins by the nine to 13 darkly coloured, vertical bars that run the length of their body.