Zebra Clingfish

Zebra Clingfish, Tomicodon zebra

The Zebra Clingfish, Tomicodon zebra, whose common Spanish name is chupapiedras cebra, is a species in the Clingfish or Gobiesocidae Family, known collectively as chupapiedras in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-two species in the genus Tomicodon, six of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.

The Zebra Clingfish have elongated “tadpole” like bodies that are relatively slender compared to other Clingfish. They are olive-pink or red dorsally with five red-brown to black hourglass-shaped crossbars; the front two crossbars are broader and most distinct. The areas between the bars have wavy red lines on a tan background. They are off-white ventrally with light bluish tinges. Their anal and pectoral fins are dusky; their caudal fin has a dark base and is white with a wide black bar in the middle; and their pelvic fins are pale. Their head is also relatively slender with large prominent eyes, a blunt snout, and a mid-sized terminal mouth that opens in the front with incisor and large canine teeth on both jaws. Their anal fin has 6 or 7 rays. Their dorsal fin is located well back on the body and has 7 or 8 rays but no spines. The sucker on their ventral side is disproportionately large and closer to the anus than to the anal fin origin. Their skin is smooth and has no scales.

The Zebra Clingfish are a shallow-water species found in rocky areas within tidal pools exposed to high surf at depths up to 30 feet. They reach a maximum length of 5.6 cm (2.2 inches). They feed primarily on barnacles and small crustaceans. The Zebra Clingfish is poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Zebra Clingfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Zebra Clingfish is very similar to the Blackstripe Clingfish, Tomicodon myersi, the Cortez Clingfish, Tomicodon boehlkei, the Rosy Clingfish, Tomicodon eos, and the Sonora Clingfish, Tomicodon humeralis, but has a differentiating bar and coloration pattern dorsally.

The Zebra Clingfish are too small to be of interest to most and are typically a “catch-and-release.”

Zebra Clingfish, Tomicodon zebra. Fish collected from a tidal pool at Km 17, El Tule, Baja California Sur, November 2004. Length: 5.0 cm (2.0 inches).

Zebra Clingfish, Tomicodon zebra. Fish collected by hand off the beach found stranded between waves, Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, November 2016. Length: 5.0 cm (2.0 inches).