Underwater Field Guide
to the Flora and Fauna of Southern California
California Fish ID

Welcome to the Southern California Underwater field guide. More than 450 species are represented here, covering a geographic area from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

You are invited to contribute photos to this field guide. To make a submission, or for assistance in identifying something unknown, please email sgietler@yahoo.com

All photos are copyrighted by each photographer and should not be used without their permissions. Field guide contributors are listed below.

We hope these galleries help you appreciate the marvelous wonders in our oceans. If this field guide was useful, please feel free to sign the guestbook at the very bottom of the page, and add your comments. Thanks  - Scott Gietler

 

      Reef and Pelagic Fish  (Perch, bass, wrasses, garibaldis, mackerals) click here

       Bottom Dwelling fish  (Eels, flatfish, gobies, blennies, kelpfish, poachers) click here

       Rockfish, Sculpins, Scorpionfish click here

       Sharks and Rays click here

       Sponges, Jellies, Anemones (Comb jellies, corals, sea fans, sea pens, hydroids) click here

        Worms  (Polychaetes, flatworms, peanut worms, ribbon worms) click here

       Molluscs  (Snails, Clams, Scallops, Octos) click here          note: Pteropods and Sea slugs are in separate galleries

        Ophisthobranchs  (Sea slugs, nudibranchs, navanaxes) click here

        Echinoderms  (Starfish, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, urchins, feather stars) click here

        Crustaceans  (Shrimps, crabs, lobsters, barnacles, isopods, copepods, & sea spiders) click here

       Other invertebrates  (Tunicates, Salps, Bryozoans, Phoronids, Pteropods)  click here

       Plants & Algae  click here

 

Many thanks goes to the following people for their assistance in species identification over the last few years: 
Shane Anderson, Dave Behrens, Morgan Busby, Daphne Fautin, Rick Feeney, Leslie Harris, Greg Jensen, Robert Lea,  Milton Love, Jeff Seigel, Robert Wrobel.

 

Field guide contributors:

Bobby Arnold      http://www.mydivinglife.com/ScubaBob
Mike Bartick          
www.saltwaterphoto.com
Clinton Bauder     www.metridium.com
Linda Blanchard
Roger Carlson     
www.rogercarlsonphotography.com
Tracy Clark
Brianne Emhiser
Penelope Foo
Peter Gallup
Phil Garner           
www.mydivinglife.com/MaxBottomtime
Scott Gietler         www.scottgietler.com
Ruth Harris           Ruth's photo gallery
Debbie Karimoto  
Debbie's photo gallery
Kevin Lee            
www.diverkevin.com
Walter Marti        Walter's videos
Gary McCarthy    http://www.underwater-photos.com
Scott McGee        http://sfmphotog.com/
Steve Murvine     
Steve's photo gallery
Loi Nguyen          Loi's photo gallery
Kyle Newton      
www.kylenewton.com
Dana Rodda       
www.seekncritters.smugmug.com
Jen Tople           
Jen's photo gallery
Allison Vitsky     
http://vitskypenfounduw.smugmug.com
Lee Zaro              Lee's photo gallery


 

Taxonomy Chart of Southern California Underwater Life:

Disclaimer: this chart is not complete, and is most likely not accurate, as DNA phylogenetic analysis is causing some of these relationships to be restructured. Also, the order these groups appear in is not meant to imply that one group is more "advanced" than another.

Porifera - Sponges
Cnidaria
   Hydrozoa - Hydroids, hydrocorals, siphonophores, hydromedusas, portuguese man-o-war
   Scythozoa - True jellyfish
   Anthozoa - Anemones, sea pens, sea pansies. corals, sea fans
      Octocorallia - 8-way symmetry; Octocorals, Gorgonians, Sea pens, Sea pansies
      Hexacorallia - 6-way symmetry
         Ceriantharia - Tube anemones
         Actiniaria - Anemones
         Corallimorpharia - Corynactis
         Scleractinia - Corals, cup corals
         Zoanthidea - Zoanthid anemones
   Cubozoa - Box jellies
Ctenophora - Comb Jellies
Annelida
   Echiura - Spoon or Echiuran worms
   Hirudinea - Leeches
   Polychaetea - Polychaetes (sea mouse, christmas tree worm, featherduster worm, etc.)
Mollusca
   Bivalvia - Clams, Oysters, Mussels, Scallops
   Gastropoda - Snails, abalone, limpets
     
Opisthobranchia
         Cephalaspidea - Head shield snails (rictaxis, bubble snails, navanax)
         Anaspidea - Sea hares
         Notaspidea - Sidegills (Tylodina, Berthella, Pleurobranchus)
         Sacoglossa - Shield tongues
         Nudibranchia
            Doridina - Dorids
            Dendronotina - Dendrodorids (doriopsilla, tritonias, dendronotus, melibe)
            Aeolidina - Aeolids (flabellina, hermissenda, cuthona)
            Arminina - Other nudibranchs (dironas, janolus)

   Cephalopoda - Octopus, Squid
   Polyplacophora - Chitons
Platyhelminthes - Flatworms
Sipuncula - Peanut or Sipunculid worms
Nemertea - Ribbon worms
Arthropoda
   Crustacea
      Maxillopoda - C
opepods, barnacles, branchiurans (sea lice, often on fish)
      Malacostraca - Lobsters, shimp, caprellids, krill, amphipods, isopods, mysids
   Pycnogonida - Sea spiders
Echinodermata
   Echinoidea - Urchins
   Crinoidea - Feather stars
   Asteroidea - Starfish
   Ophiuroidea -Brittle stars
   Holothuroidea - Sea cucumbers
Bryozoa - Bryozoans
Phoronida - Phoronids
Chordata
   Tunicata
      Ascidiacea - Sea Squirts (ascidians), sessile tunicates
      Thalicea - Salps (pelagic tunicates)
   Vertebrata
      Agnatha - Hagfish & Lampreys
      Chondrichthyes - Sharks & Rays
      Osteichthyes - Bony Fish (only fish from the field guide are listed below)
         Anguilliformes - True eels - Moray eel, Snake eel
         Clupeiformed - Herrings, anchovies
         Gadiformes - Cods
         Aulopiformes - Lizardfish
         Ophidiiformes - Cusk eels
         Atheriniformes - Silversides; Topsmelt, jacksmelt
         Gobiesociformes - Clingfishes
         Syngnathiformes- Pipefish, sea horses
         Pleuronectiformes - Flatfish
         Scorpaeniformes - Scorpionfish, rockfish, sculpins, poachers, greenlings, lingcod, combfish
         Perciformes - Most other fish; bass, gobies, mackeral, perches, wrasses, wolf-eels, molas, barracudas, ronquils, surfperches, kelpfish, butterfly flish, blennies

     

Recommended Books:

Coastal Fish Identification, California to Alaska,   Paul Humann & Ned Deloach (2nd edition)
Eastern Pacific Nudibranchs,   David Behrens & Alicia Hermosillo
Guide to Marine Invertebrates,   Daniel Gotshall
Pacific Coast Crabs and Shrimps,   Gregory Jensen
Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates,  David Wrobel & Claudia Mills
Guide to the Coastal Marine Fishes of California,  Daniel Miller & Robert N. Lea
Probably more than you want to know about the fishes of the Pacific coast,  Milton Love
The Rockfishes of the Northeast Pacific,  Milton Love,  Mary Yoklavich, and Lyman Thorsteinson


copyright Scott Gietler