Explore life beneath the waves around Britain with Benny the Blenny
I haven’t had a chance to show you round where I live yet. My very desirable crevice home is in this rocky reef. At low tide the top of my reef is in water about 2 metres deep. Tompot blennies like me have been spotted around most of Great Britain and Ireland; see the map in my blog of 4thJune.
Divers and snorkellers can only come and visit me when the sea is very calm and clear like it is in this photograph. When the sea is rough and stirred up, it gets very murky so the divers would get washed around and not be able to see anything or take photos. There’s more information about my home at www.bennytheblenny.com
Click here to watch a film which shows the tide going out and coming in again at Wembury Beach in Devon: player.vimeo.com
The rocky reef that I live on is close to here. It’s just beyond the low tide mark but is always covered in water. Lots of tompot blennies live further offshore than this and in deeper water, sometimes down to 30 metres.
A Dad’s duties
Here, I'm using my pectoral (shoulder) fins to fan water over Belinda’s developing eggs and keep them healthy. I also have a special gland near my tail that releases important stuff to keep bugs from growing on the eggs. Female tompot blennies like Belinda take care to lay their eggs in a single layer that makes it easy for me to give them all a good wipe over.
Since Belinda’s visit, two other female tompot blennies (let’s call them Barbara and Brenda) have been attracted by my smelly messages (pheromones) and have been flirting just outside my home at different times. I’ve encouraged them in and they have laid their eggs next to Belinda’s. I fertilised them straight away, as I need to make sure I’m their Dad. I have to be on my guard because lots of animals would love to eat my eggs. I can’t leave them unguarded for more than a few moments so I have to grab my own food very quickly!
Guarding my eggs
Now I’ve got eggs to care for, I need to keep intruders away. This edible crab is too close and I'm concerned he wants to use those big claws to pick and eat my youngsters developing in their eggs. As you can see, I'm biting and pushing his leg to scare him off. He’s slow on the uptake so it can take a while but eventually he will get the message and shuffle off. Meanwhile, he’s protecting his eyes and mouth from my attacks.
The velvet swimming crabs can be more difficult to chase away, as they like a fight. I use a different tactic with them because they are fast and have sharp claws. I harass them by darting in quickly so they don’t have time to nip me. I’m clever as well as very bossy!
Becoming a Dad!
The reason I fought to keep my territory in March was so that I have a safe place to raise my family. In April, I got my crevice ready to become a nursery by cleaning the floor and ceiling. I then released some special chemicals (called pheromones) from glands near my tail and wafted them into the surrounding seawater. This was to tell the local female tompot blennies that my home was ready for them to lay their eggs. The first female to visit, let’s call her ‘Belinda’, came bustling up and posed at the front of my crevice. I checked her out, liked what I saw and then invited her in. We got to know each other as I gave her a few pecks on the cheek and a gentle nudge. She had a good look round my home and it must have pleased her because she laid a batch of beautiful purple eggs on the floor of my crevice. I fertilised her eggs quickly. I'm going to be a Dad!!