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(sculpins), a family of fishes of the order Scorpae-niformes. The fishes have a large head and two dorsal fins (the first being the shorter of the two). The body is usually naked but sometimes has bony platelets or knobs. Some species reach a length of 60-75 cm and weigh several kg; there also are dwarf species measuring only 5 or 6 cm long.
There are approximately 200 species of Cottidae, embracing 60 genera. There are more species of Cottidae in the USSR (about 100) than of any other fish family. They are found primarily in the northern hemisphere in temperate and cold seas and freshwaters; the southern hemisphere has only two species of the genus Antipodocottus.
Myoxocephalus scorpius, a marine species that usually reaches a length of 25 cm, is found in the coastal waters of the Barents and White seas. It feeds on various invertebrates and fish, and it spawns in the winter, with the male guarding the eggs. M. quadricornis inhabits the brackish coastal waters of the circumpolar region; there are relict freshwater forms in the larger lakes of Eurasia and North America. Cottus gobio, a freshwater species measuring up to 12 cm long, inhabits the rivers and lakes of Europe, from the Northern Pyrenees to the Ural Ridge. It serves as food for pike, trout, and burbot; it feeds on the roe of these same fish. C. gobio also eats various invertebrates. Spawning occurs in the winter and spring, with the male guarding the roe. Lake Baikal is the home of 24 endemic species of miller’s thumb (they are sometimes divided into a separate family). Marine species of the family Cottidae are of some commercial value.
A. V. NEELOV