Horn sharks + tope shark snorkel, plus some good California Sheephead fish drama

Horn shark, male - you can see his white-tipped claspers.

Reports lately have been touting sightings of multiple sevengill sharks... not only at the place I've seen them before (say, 40 feet down after a big kick-out to a distant buoy), but in the shallows.

If I hadn't seen video I might've questioned these stories... but the video evidence was too hard to ignore, so on Monday I gave it a shot after dropping the kids off at school. I didn't see any sevengills, but I did see a couple of horn sharks and a nice big tope shark, though that tope shark was in deeper water with lower visibility.

 Tope or Soupfin shark in low viz

Note the fish drama: it took me awhile to work out what I had witnessed, but with time and research, I believe that the fish drama I captured was of two transitioning California Sheepheads that are transitioning from female to male. This occurs with every such fish around about age 7 or 8. See Courtship and Spawning Behavior in the California Sheephead, Semicossyphus Pulcher (Pisces: Labridae) for detailed information on this particular territorial behavior, especially among California Sheephead, and see also these photographic examples of what it looks like when a female starts to make that transition. The gray Sheephead, in particular, had me puzzled because most photos only show the orange female and the gray-white-and-orange males, but certainly there is an in-between phase during which that transition is happening. I believe I captured two fish in the midst of that transition, based on territorial behaviors typically displayed by males, not females.

Unrelated, but I think the other fish (kelp bass and opaleyes) just hanging around observing the "fight" are hilarious. Just like people watching a fight. And when I swim up they kinda scatter like the cops just rolled up.

 Two California Sheepheads that I believe are in the midst of transitioning from female to male.

Enjoy the video!


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