Male California Sheephead
Semicossyphus pulcher

Physical Description

  • Males black with red-pink midsection
  • Red eyes
  • Prominent square, “sheep-like” head
  • Can grow to be 3 feet long and weigh 35 pounds
  • Have protruding teeth, used to prey on hard-shelled organisms


  • Point Conception, California to Guadalupe Island, Baja California, Mexico
  • Gulf of California, Mexico


  • Rocky reefs
  • Kelp forests
  • From 10 to 100 feet depths


  • Eats sea urchins, bivalves (two-shelled animals), barnacles, and bryozoans


  • Often eaten by harbor seals and sea lions

Interesting Facts

  • California sheepshead are born female but often become male later in life!
  • They can live to be 53 years old, which is very long for a fish.
  • At night, they hide in crevices and wrap themselves in a mucus cocoon to hide their scent from predators.
  • Sheepshead often get a parasitic flatworm, but the mutualistic senorita fish clean it off of their skin and gills.

Sources: California Sea Grant

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