Explore life beneath the waves around Britain with Benny the Blenny
This photo shows my friend Maisie being a Tompot girl. Thank you Maisie, I’m very proud to be starring in the July 2016 BBC Wildlife magazine. My underwater photographer Paul Naylor has written a fascinating article about me, my tompot blenny neighbours and the other colourful fish that live on my reef. The magazine’s the copy with the mugshot of the whiskery hippo on the front cover.
2’s company, 3’s a crowd, 4’s a harem?
Although I have a good number of eggs to guard already, and looking after them in my crevice home keeps me busy, females still visit me to lay more. I usually have only one female visitor at a time (see blog 11/4/2016) but this time for some reason, I had three visitors all at once. The divers, Paul and Teresa were amazed; they’d never seen a male tompot blenny quite that popular before! Maybe it was because the special smells I waft out to attract females were particularly powerful or perhaps none of the other males on the reef have room for more eggs at the moment.
That’s me on the right; I’m slightly darker and redder than the visiting tompot blenny females - Beth, Bella and Brenda (yes, we can all be individually recognised see blog 24/3/2016). Luckily, they seemed to get on OK with each other, and I was certainly happy for all three to come in and lay their eggs. I was then very busy fertilising all those extra eggs. What a brilliant breeding season it’s turning out to be.
Nosy fish – keeping watch. The eyes have it!
I'm keeping watch for predators and intruders. You can see from this video that I have unusual eyes and can look in different directions at the same time.
I've spotted something interesting. I'm off!
What a mouthful! The importance of having a ‘bolt hole’.
One of the tompot blennies living on a reef nearby recently came to a grizzly end in the mouth of this young conger eel. I don’t think it would have happened to me because, unlike this poor guy’s home, my crevice has a ‘bolt hole’. Let me explain what I mean by this; an ideal crevice home has a fairly open front part where female tompots can be entertained and encouraged to lay their eggs but it also has a very narrow back part where you can hide when a streamlined predator like a conger eel pays a visit. This ‘bolt hole’ also gives extra shelter when the sea is very rough.
Having said all that, this poor tompot blenny was very unlucky to meet a conger eel that was just small enough to get into his home and just large enough to eat him. You can see what a struggle it was for the conger in the first photograph. Paul, my underwater photographer, saw the tompot blenny stuck in the conger’s mouth like that for over 30 minutes! When Paul and Teresa came back 12 hours later, they found a very sleepy full-bellied conger eel and no tompot blenny!
The stunning view has now become green gloop!
AKA the phytoplankton (plant plankton) bloom, it’s as if the green curtains have come down! You can see in the photo below that when the sea is calm, I normally have a fantastic view from my crevice home, but it’s now like green fog (see the photo above)! It’s because the phytoplankton (millions of tiny plants living in the sea) have been growing and multiplying madly! Like the plants in your garden, they need the right conditions to grow. The seawater has now got a little warmer, there is enough light (the days are longer) for lots of photosynthesis and the right amount of nutrients are there so they go wild! These conditions happen every year in the spring, around the first week of May near Plymouth, and less dramatically in the autumn. My view might be spoilt but there is a big up-side to this phytoplankton bloom; lots of food for the zooplankton (animal plankton) to eat and then lots of them for other animals to eat! This all means that there will be plenty of food for my babies that are about to hatch from their eggs. See blog 27/08/2015. They will spend several weeks drifting with the plankton, eating the smaller zooplankton at first then moving onto the larger zooplankton as they grow up a bit.
When the green fog is here I have to use my sense of smell to find food as I can’t see very much! Hopefully it will all clear in the next couple of weeks and the divers will be able to come back to see how I’m getting on.
For more information about plankton take a look at www.lifeadrift.info