Reproductive Biology

Spawning occurs in early to mid-Autumn and consists of males approaching ripe females and rolling on their sides or even upside down under the female. Fertilization is internal and several copulations occur for 2-3 minutes each over many hours, perhaps up to half a day. Egg laying occurs around 6-17 hours after the last copulation. Large females lay a clutch of eggs in rocky areas more numerous than smaller females. A female at nearly 35.4 in (90 cm), near the maximum size, contained over 4,100 ripe eggs; another at 21.6 in (55 cm), and probably spawning for the first or second time, had 1,300 eggs. The eggs are pale yellow and measure 0.24-0.28 in (6-7 mm) in diameter. Upon laying her egg mass the female fans and wipes her skin over the eggs for around 30 minutes. This coats the mass in an antibiotic mucus. Then the female wraps herself tightly around the mass (now white in color), which helps stick it together into an egg ball. Females remain passive while guarding their eggs except for intermittent swimming in circles while fanning the eggs with their pectoral fins. Incubation lasts for three months, during which females probably do not feed much. Fry hatch in mid-winter, and yolk sac resorption occurs in seconds. Fry have a very short planktonic phase while working their way inshore, where they develop over the first few years of their lives.

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