Tompot blennies egg-laying “Eggscitedly” and “Eggsstaticly!”

I’m “eggscited” and “eggsstatic” now I have a full raft of eggs to look after! That’s because this spring I’ve:

a) secured a territory – my crevice home

b) done my spring cleaning

c) done an “eggscellent” job of attracting the local females in to lay their eggs.

I did this by wafting inviting smells (pheromones) from the enlarged glands just under my belly. Back on 24th March, Belinda was the first female to respond to my smelly message, she came in and had a good look at my home, I gave her a show of my bravado by whizzing round at lightning speed. Once I’d calmed down, she then decided to lay some of her beautiful dark purple eggs with me, which I fertilised immediately. Since then I’ve had visits from Brenda, Barbara, Bertha and Becky too. Belinda has been back twice. I’m very particular where they lay their eggs so you will see in the video that I boss them around to make sure they lay their eggs just where I want them to! They tolerate a little gentle barging and fin nibbling as they know I have a good track record as a Dad; I’ve lived in this crevice for 3 years and have been very successful looking after eggs.

I noticed this year that the females visited us more established males in the better crevices first. Byron and I are the ‘top dogs’ on the reef and we both had a good layer of eggs in our crevices a week or two before the females started to lay eggs with Billy, a small younger male tompot blenny with an inferior crevice home.

 

A fish spring cleaning? In readiness for romance!

Well, the storms have gone, the sun is out, the seawater temperature which has been around 9 C most of the winter has just crept up to 11 C and, most importantly, the days are getting much longer. I’ve been cleaning out my crevice home to ensure that the floor and ceiling are perfect for egg laying; I flick and shiver over the surfaces clearing off any mud and nibble away at little barnacles and worm tubes that have been growing over the winter. All this to prepare the maximum surface area to impress the female tompot blennies that I invite in.

You might think that I’m not fussy about which females I attract to my crevice home but you’ll find I have my favourites. Yes, Paul’s research into our fishy community  Unique face markings has suggested there is a pecking order amongst the females. As I’m one of the top males with an excellent crevice home, and a proven track record for being a good dad looking after eggs, the top females like to lay their eggs with me!

Look what the storms washed up onto the beach

Just after the video for my last blog was taken, I kept seeing dark shapes being swept past my crevice home. It took a while but then it dawned on me what they were. The waves had ripped lots of kelp (a large type of seaweed) off the rocks around my home and it was being swished around in the waves. I’ll have to be careful when I venture out as it could damage me.

A lot of the kelp will be washed up on the beach. This photograph shows a pile, 1 metre deep, that arrived all in one night… pretty impressive!

Pile of kelp washed up on the beach in one night

The recycling gang will have to get into action on the beach; sand hoppers, beach hoppers, kelp flies and other small creatures will break it all down over the next month or so. More broken off kelp will stay around the gully in front of my rock, it will be eaten by thousands of amphipods and isopods (small crustaceans). Those amphipods and isopods will eventually be a nice feast for me, so that’s the good side of the storm, yum yum!

This smallspotted catshark egg case (mermaid’s purse) was washed up with the seaweed too!
Adult smallspotted catshark; the female lays the egg cases one by one, swimming round and round the seaweed or kelp so that the tendrils of the egg case tie it on securely. Copyright Paul Naylor

You can see that all us fish have different ways of bringing on the next generation. Super-Dad blennies like me guard our eggs http://www.bennytheblenny.com/blog/?p=240, while the single catshark and ray eggs are wrapped in those tough ‘mermaid’s purses’ so they don’t need to be guarded. Some fish, like plaice and cod, don’t guard the eggs or give them a strong coat, they just produce so many of them (plaice ~500000, cod over a million) that they reckon a few are bound to survive. That sounds a bit too risky to me!

 

Was that Storm Doris?

I’m glad I chased that velvet swimming crab out when I did. I’ve been in dire need of my crevice home to myself for the last few days. Gales hit the south-west coast but there seems to be some debate whether it was just very windy or officially ‘Storm Doris’, as some of the newspapers called it. It felt like Storm Doris to me. Take a look at this video, imagine what it’s like around my reef, a bubbly wild underwater whirlpool! I’m staying hidden away in the narrowest, snuggest part of my crevice for now, using my fins to keep me safely in position.

The winds are now easing but there is still a big swell coming in from the open sea. The surfers are enjoying it!

Tompot blenny power! How to deal with a velvet swimming crab.

This pesky velvet swimming crab keeps creeping into my crevice home when I’m out searching for food. He doesn’t seem to get the message that he isn’t welcome, so I have to deal with him every time I get home. It takes a full blown head on barge, followed by careful manoeuvring to avoid his sharp claws. I then back in beside him and forcibly shove him sideways out of my crevice. As you can see from the video, I’ve nearly succeeded. It’s an uneasy truce for now but I’ll have another bash later!

I use a different technique to shift edible crabs from my territory, please take a look at my blog of 19th June 2015.

 

 

Benny the Blenny is reading his book!

Thank you for reading my blogs, I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I’ve loved writing them. There’s always so much happening on my reef to tell you about.

Take a look at this photograph, it shows me looking at the children’s book that is all about ME and my world under the sea. It uses lots of underwater photographs to tell you all about where I live, what I like to eat and what would like to eat me! My eccentric author was very keen that I should see the book so, when the first copies were printed, she brought one down with Paul (the photographer) to show me! I came out of my crevice home to have a good look, swam over it and ……

I’m taking a look at the children’s book that Teresa has written all about me!
I swam out over it – checking for spelling mistakes …..
…. all good so gave it the fins up!

…gave it a big fins up!

Was it the first ever underwater book launch??

My author isn’t brilliant at marketing, so I thought I’d give her a helping fin. Here is the link for my book, Benny the Blenny’s Shallow Sea Adventure https://www.amazon.co.uk/Benny-Blennys-Shallow-Sea-Adventure/dp/1909648000

and Paul’s wonderful book Great British Marine Animals https://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-British-Marine-Animals-Naylor/dp/0952283166

 

 

Danger! Lurking cuttlefish

Talking of marauding predators, I watched this cuttlefish cautiously from the safety of my crevice home. It grabbed a small fish with its long tentacles and I wondered who had been the unlucky victim. Before the cuttlefish jetted away, I saw a sea scorpion’s tail sticking out from its tentacles. That fish’s camouflage hadn’t deceived the superb vision of the cuttlefish this time, with fatal consequences! Sad to see I guess, but cuttlefish have to eat and better a sea scorpion than a tompot blenny, especially as sea scorpions can eat young tompot blennies too.

“Mini me” tompot blennies out and about on my reef!

Since the baby tompot blennies have settled out of the plankton, three noticeable things have happened. First, they have taken on camouflage colours and now match up with their background quite well. Next, they have a bright blue ‘eye’ spot on the front of their dorsal fin which they can flick up; does it make them look bigger and scare away other fish? Lastly, their head tentacles are developing well and they look like ‘mini me’ tompots as they explore my reef.

Mini-me, 30mm long baby tompot blenny!
Mini me, 30mm long baby tompot blenny!

They are only 20 – 45mm long at this time of the year (depending on whether they hatched from their eggs early or late in the summer) but they are just large enough to be spotted and photographed by Paul and Teresa. What always surprises them is how these youngsters are very bold and like to show off in front of the camera! Wouldn’t you expect little fish like these to be much more timid and hide in the small crevices away from marauding predators?

Take a look at my blog from last year 30th September 2015 http://www.bennytheblenny.com/blog/?m=201509  to see a video of two very small tompot blennies play fighting.

 

Benny the Blenny’s babies (juvenile fish) 2cm long are settling back on the reef

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You’ve seen how my amazing my babies were swimming around in the plankton. The ones that managed to avoid being eaten and found enough plankton to eat have grown to around 2 cm long and have now settled back on the reef.  The researchers are not sure how they find a good home reef. It may just be luck or something to do with them being able to recognise the smell of the area they hatched from. Some coral reef fish know which reef is home from the sound the waves make!

When my babies first settle they are quite colourless, but soon take on camouflage colours to help them match their surroundings. You can see that their head tentacles have started growing and their pectoral fins are just visible with some black pigment.

Thank you to the National Marine Aquarium Plymouth for their help in getting this photo. The NMA is an excellent place to see tompot blennies like Benny the Blenny and lots of other UK marine life.