Explore life beneath the waves around Britain with Benny the Blenny
Doubly nosy fish – I’ve got two sets of nostrils!
It’s not just my head tentacles that go with the swell! The small tentacles (called cirri) around my nostrils swish around too when its rough. Have a close look at this photo; just over my lower nostrils you can see that I’ve got a little crown of these fine tentacles. They detect smells (chemicals) in the water as it flows into the nostrils. Before the water flows out again through my upper nostrils, it passes over a lot more sensitive cells that add to my knowledge of what’s around. Can you see my upper nostrils? They don’t have any tentacles, are just level with my eyes and look a bit like miniature volcanoes! My sense of smell helps me find food or a mate. It’s really important and takes over from my eyesight when the water is too murky for me to see clearly.
You can also see several other little round holes on my head. They are either pores for drawing in water to help me sense what direction the good/bad smells are coming from, or are there to detect water movement.
The water temperature is dropping slowly and its now 13 degrees. It calmed down for a couple of days last week and I was able to go out for a good hunt. I have to make the most of it when I can. It’s now turned incredibly rough again, well it is winter!
Jet stream = bad hair day!
Unlike my territory, the weather is something I have no control over. The autumn storms have arrived and are likely to be whistling through for the next few weeks thanks to the position of the jet stream. Learn all about the jet stream here: www.metoffice.gov.uk
The wind off the coast of Devon is blowing wildly, mainly from the south-west, and so large waves are swirling around my rock. Have you ever looked into the glass front of the washing machine when it’s on the go? That’s exactly what it is like outside my home at the moment! There are lots of bubbles and a powerful swell, and it will be like this for a while now.
I use all my fins to keep me secure in the back of my crevice, tucked away from the swooshing waves, and hope that something interesting to eat gets carried within reach. When it’s like this I don’t venture far, if at all, for fear of being washed way. I have another adaptation on my side too; blennies like me don’t have a swim bladder which makes it easier for us to stay close to the seabed. If I do go out, I have to be extra careful I don’t get washed into the way of the snakelocks anemone’s tentacles or bashed by stones moving around in the waves.
As you can see from the photograph, my head tentacles go with the swell, a bit like your hair blowing in the wind. A bad hair day is likely to be a bad hair week!
Who's this hanging around?
Yes, I’m back in control of my territory again. My crevice will continue to be a safe home and give me good protection during the storms that are due soon. Winter is definitely on its way with the water temperature dropping down to 14C (it was 16C at its warmest) and the days getting shorter.
Hmm, take a look at the photo, there is a topknot on the rock above my head that’s been hanging around since the summer. I’m never quite sure of its intentions, as you can see I’m wary and keep out of its way. Hopefully, it will move into deeper water for the winter, like many fish, while I stick around here on my home reef.
A topknot is a flatfish that is adapted to live on rocks, it spends the most of its time upside down and holds on to the rock using specially formed fins. I always think topknots are a bit mysterious but the very young tompot blennies have much more to fear because they are just the right size for a topknot ‘snack’. If a big one tried to attack me, I’d stick my fins out and make myself too large and prickly to eat!
Photo: Paul Naylor
A while after I watched those youngsters fighting, I had an argument of my own to sort out. Another large male tompot blenny (that’s him on the right in the video) was spending too much time near my home, so I swam out to confront him. Our stand-off lasted nearly 30 minutes and the video below shows just a small part of it.
You can see we were both trying to scare each other away and prove we were the bravest, without actually using our teeth and risking getting a nasty injury. We’re a bit older and wiser than those youngsters! You could say we were ‘all show and no go’ but a lot of adult animals use that tactic, not just fish like me. Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know I saw the intruder off in the end and am still the proud boss of my crevice!
Watch the video here! : vimeo.com
Practising for adulthood?
I was very amused when I saw these two young tompot blennies (2 cm long) having a play fight, a bit like wolf cubs sorting out their pecking order. You'd think that at their size they should keep hidden away safe from predators. But no, they're more interested in fighting out in the open!
Take a look at the video here! vimeo.com