The animal can live for up to around 20 years in favorable conditions. They can reach a length of up to 3 ft (0.91 m), and a weight of as much as 30 lb (13.6 kg).
The fish are carnivorous, living in rocky reef and kelp bed habitats. Their diet includes primarily sea urchins, mollusks, and other crustaceans.
California Sheephead Description
Male and female California Sheephead display sexual dimorphism and have different color patterns and body shapes.
Males are larger, with black tail and head sections. They also have wide, reddish-orange midriffs, red eyes, and fleshy forehead bumps.
Females are dull pink with white undersides.
Both sexes have white chins and large, protruding canine teeth. These they use to pry hard-shelled creatures from rocks.
Interestingly, all California Sheephead are born as females and eventually change to males. The age of the transition depends on environmental factors such as food supply. When supplied with a large amount of food, this fish can live for up to around 20 years.
California Sheephead Biology
The animal lives in kelp forests and rocky reefs. There it feeds on sea urchins, mollusks, lobsters, and crabs.
Giving birth results in the planktonic larva. Like many wrasse species, sheephead are protogynous. Also, the two sexes have extremely different appearances. This transition is among the most dramatic among the wrasses. Because only large individuals are male, setting minimum catch sizes has made populations mostly female, with a negative effect on population sizes.
California Sheephead Distribution and Habitat
Although their home ranges are thought of as particularly well defined, the size and fidelity may vary ontogenetically and seasonally and with habitat availability.
California Sheephead home ranges are relatively small sections of ocean, and the fish have a very high site attachment. They may select rocky areas with kelp most often due to the increased habitat complexity. This preference likely offers additional feeding opportunities and potential refuge from large predators.
This animal is generally considered mainly a rocky reef and kelp-bed associated, but they occasionally frequent sand habitats in foraging forays.