Explore life beneath the waves around Britain with Benny the Blenny
Tompot blenny egg development: it’s not bronze, silver, gold like your Olympics, it’s amethyst, gold, silver!
When I’m guarding all the eggs in my crevice, I have plenty of time to watch them develop. Something I notice is how they change colour. You can see in blog 21/4 that when Brenda laid her eggs they were like perfect amethyst jewels, a lovely deep purple, stuck in a very neat honeycomb pattern on the floor of my crevice. As I cared for them, the viable eggs i.e. the ones that were healthy and that I'd successfully fertilised, developed from purple into beautiful golden globes. Over the few weeks after that, they progressed so the baby fishes’ eyes could be seen shining silver. The eyes are large relative to the eggs, so part of the whole layer looks sparkly silver and it feels as though all the eyes are on me!! Because several different females have laid the eggs at different times (this is called partition laying), I am often looking after the three stages of eggs at the same time. Not at the moment though, it’s now the end of the season and I'm just waiting patiently for the last few sparkling silver-eyed eggs to hatch. Phew, I can then build up my strength again because being a 'stay at home dad' is very exhausting!!
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!