Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Blenny in His Den-ny

Image: Saspotato
A Blenny's hole in the ground is his castle. They just love a good hole! It's like if you were wondering what present to get someone who already has it all and, because you were incredibly wealthy, you bought him a golf course. And he loved that golf course. But he never played golf. He just wandered around admiring the holes.

You can't put a price on genuine joy and pleasure derived from a much-loved gift, but next time maybe you could get him a piece of astro turf with a hole in it rather than an entire golf course. You live and learn.

Image: Sylke Rohrlach
Horned Blenny, Parablennius intermedius
Today, we're going to look at an assortment of Blennies enjoying the peace and quiet of their very own hole in the ground. These are all Combtooth Blennies, the 400 or so species of the Blenniidae family found in tropical and subtropical oceans across the world.

Most of them are quite small; the Horned Blenny here comes from Australia and reaches 12 cm (4.7 in) long. Normally you wouldn't realise that, though. Normally you'd just see its head.

Image: richard ling
Leopard Blenny, Exallias brevis
They're a timid bunch, these Blennies. Most of them spend their time nestled away in rocky cracks and crevices, vacated tubes in sponges and corals previously excavated by tube worms, burrows in the sandy sediment, or even empty snail shells if the Blenny in question is small enough.

The Leopard Blenny gets its name from being spotty like a leopard, not for it's unyielding lion heart forged from iron and steel.

Image: Saspotato
Tasmanian Blenny, Parablennius tasmanianus
Lots of Blennies have strange, fleshy whiskers sprouting out of their head. Sometimes it's just a few, delicate strands above the eyes, other times their whole face is covered in them. Few have quite so spectacular accoutrements as the Tasmanian Blenny. They almost look like the horns of an impala!

Image: mentalblock_DMD
Seaweed Blenny, Parablennius marmoreus
And then you have the antlers of this Seaweed Blenny. These whiskers are known as cirri and may help them sniff out food. Once they get as big and ornate as they are here however, one wonders if there isn't more to it than that.

Or perhaps they just have a really huge sniffer on top of their head.

Image: PacificKlaus
Blue-dashed Rockskipper, Blenniella periophthalmus
Your typical Blenny also has huge eyes, a huge mouth and a huge dorsal fin running all the way down its back. They don't like swimming around too much and their lack of a swim bladder makes it more difficult for them anyway. The Blue-dashed Rockskipper would much rather lounge around in its den, watching the hustle and bustle of the reef go by. I know that's what I'd be doing.

Bicolor Blenny, Ecsenius bicolor

Eventually however, they must eat. Such is the suffering inflicted upon us by the body. Our plucky Blenny must leave the sanctity of his hole in the ground and forage for food. They will typically swim from rock to rock, stopping and looking around each time. That's why a lot of them are known as Rockskippers.

Lawnmower Blenny, Salarias fasciatus

Blennies feast on all sorts of small crustaceans and molluscs that can be found near their home grounds. Some, like the Lawnmower Blenny, are also very fond of algae that they'll graze off rocks. Or glass, depending on their situation. Still others prefer to catch plankton as it drifts by.

Image: Nick Hobgood
Blue-lined Sabretooth Blenny, Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos
You may not think it to look at it, but the Blue-lined Sabretooth Blenny represents the dark, squalid underbelly of the Combtooth Blenny world. If you look really closely, you'll notice that that particular shade of orange is in fact evil.

Combtooth Blennies get their name from their single row of tiny, comb-like teeth in each jaw. Sabretooths also have a pair of long canines on the lower jaw, sometimes attached to a venom gland.

Many of these most bestial of Blennies use their fangs to rip out chunks of flesh, skin or fin from larger fish. There's even one that mimics cleaner fish, acting as if it's about to nibble on the parasites of their patron. Once their victim relaxes for a good going over, the Sabretooth tears out a mouthful of flesh to eat instead.

Image: PacificKlaus
Star Blenny, Salarias ramosus
Most Blennies are of a more pleasant disposition, however. The Star Blenny would much rather take her beautiful constellation of stars and dive down into her hole in the ground.

Dominar Rygel XVI
Although anyone who's seen weird, Australian sci-fi series Farscape may wonder where exactly that hole leads...


TexWisGirl said...

most are really cute! now the tearing out of flesh, however...

Lunatiq Coquette said...

I was going to comment on how reminiscient the Rockhopper is of a frog (a psychadelic, probably-poisonous frog), but now I just need to cover this post in gold stars for including Rygel! (And that certainly would explain a lot...)

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

@TexWisGirl: Yes, mouthfuls of flesh tend to be a bit of a downer...

@Lunatiq Coquette: Gold stars! Woo!

Crunchy said...

I miss Farscape. Maybe I should buy a blenny?

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Maybe you should! And then you can save up and eventually you'll be able to take him up to the stars when space tourism really takes off.

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