Explore life beneath the waves around Britain with Benny the Blenny
The view out of my window – a few weeks ago
For the first few weeks that I was looking after my growing raft of eggs, the view from my crevice home was stunning. I could see all the snakelocks anemones and thongweed gently swaying in the swell and several ballan wrasse (like the large fish in the photo) cruising around looking for crabs.
The egg thief – Connemara clingfish
The eggs survived storm Katie and I've had great fun over the last few weeks. Several female tompot blennies have been to visit to lay their eggs in my home crevice as they know I'm a good dad. I was the first of the 4 local males to be looking after eggs and it's a sure sign that, as soon as one female has laid, others will follow quickly after. They seem to prefer to lay their eggs with a male who already has eggs; going for proven quality and safety in numbers! There's a small male in the crevice near mine and a generous female eventually laid a few eggs with him, while she laid a lot more with me.
I've now got eggs on the floor and ceiling and have a lot of egg guarding to do! I was busy at the back of my crevice the other day and a sneaky Connemara clingfish dashed in and ate a few eggs that were near the front entrance to my home. As soon as I spotted the cheeky intruder, I darted over and gave him a quick nip to scare him off. Hopefully it was enough for him think twice before coming to eat my babies again!
I have to be careful when I choose my crevice home as these egg thieving clingfish are able to squeeze into narrower gaps between rocks than I can. That means they can hide in parts of my home that give them easy access to my eggs but which I can’t get into to chase them out. Now that is frustrating!
It's hard work being a tompot blenny dad because lots of the reef dwellers are after my precious eggs. First the Connemara clingfish and now a topknot, a flatfish that likes to live on the rock, keeps trying to come in to my crevice. He's quite big so I have to charge at him and nip at the same time so that he takes notice and goes away.
I’m going to be a Dad again! Eggs in time for Easter
It’s a good thing I got my crevice home clean and ready for my female visitors. Just before Easter, a female that we now call Betty came to visit me and she laid a beautiful raft of eggs for me to look after. You can see me in the background of these photographs. The female tompot blennies tend to be paler than the darker more reddish coloured breeding males. In the bottom photograph, Betty is in the middle of laying her eggs and her ovipositor (egg laying organ) is showing.
Teresa and Paul came diving to visit us and were pleased to see that we had started to breed. Storm Katie came through a couple of days later so they are not sure whether Betty’s eggs have survived the storm. In any case, I’ll be trying to attract several other female tompots to visit me over the next two months to lay their eggs. Hopefully the weather will improve, so it will be easier for me to be ready for them!
When I have eggs to look after, I wipe them over with my special glands (that look like miniature cauliflowers) to keep them clean, healthy and free of bugs.
As soon as the sea is calm enough, Teresa and Paul will come and see me again and will be able to let you know how we are all doing.
Great news! I’m the star of a scientific paper!
Among other things, it shows how you can use face markings to tell us individual tompot blennies apart.
As you can see from the photo I have an angular sloping ‘M’ shape mark just under my eye and my photographer and marine biologist Paul Naylor uses this face marking as well as others on the front and other side of my face to be sure it is me he is looking at! He has recently realised we are all different and has built up a collection of ‘mug shots’ (photographs) for all the tompot blennies that he sees regularly on my reef. Being able to name each of us by our face markings has made it easier for him to understand our behaviour.
Paul now knows we have fights over territory and females, we can stay in our crevice homes for at least 4 years and I have guarded the eggs of several different females for at least 2 years. This information has just been published by him and David Jacoby (Zoological Society London) in the Journal of Fish Biology. So I’m now an important research fish too!
This link will take you to a slideshow that tells you more about it: wtru.st
I’ve noticed that the days are getting longer again so it feels as if spring is nearly here. The divers, Teresa and Paul, have just managed to swim along to see me again in between storms. They visited in January but didn’t see much of me as I was tucked away at the back of my crevice. This time they noticed that I’d been busy cleaning it out ready for inviting in the local female tompot blennies. I’ve carefully flicked out any sand and debris left by the storms, so the floor and ceiling are clear and ready for them to stick down their eggs. I’m the best at this job!
It’s a pretty important time of year for me as there’s a lot more activity around my reef. I’ve kept control of my crevice all winter but, as spring kicks in, many of the other younger males will try their luck fighting me for my territory! I’m bigger, older and wiser than them so am confident of keeping it. Paul has got close-up photographs of my face markings so that he’s sure it’s definitely still me that’s here!
By the time they next dive to see me, they might be able to see the eggs I will be proudly protecting!
It’s World Book Day today, have you seen my book?
In Benny the Blenny’s Shallow Sea Adventure you will be able to read all about me and my neighbours: crabs, cuttlefish, sea anemones, starfish, seals and fish that live on my reef. Do I eat them or do they try to eat me? Take a look at it here: www.amazon.co.uk