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.
Although I have a good number of eggs to guard already, and I’m busy looking after them in my crevice home, 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.
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!
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!
I’m thinking about my babies (tompot blenny larvae) swimming, eating and developing in the plankton, I hope they are OK.
It reminded me of this excellent video called ‘The Power of Plankton’ from SAHFOS* which promotes the importance of plankton – the amazing drifting part of my underwater world.
Did you know that the PLANT PLANKTON (phytoplankton) PRODUCES almost 50% of the WORLD’S OXYGEN? That’s one of the reasons why caring for our seas is so important!
By watching the video I also learnt that my babies are classed as MEROPLANKTON, along with the eggs, larvae and juveniles of many different types of fish. This also includes the young stages of other marine animals such as barnacles, crabs, starfish and sea anemones.
You can watch this video and learn all about these things for yourself here: wtru.st
Many thanks to SAHFOS *Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science www.sahfos.ac.uk for producing ‘The Power of the Plankton’ video.
This video shows what my babies look like when they have left home, having just hatched from those eggs that I’ve been guarding. Swimming among the plankton in the open sea, they are very sleek with gorgeous big eyes and are between 5-10 mm long.
By eating very small plant (phyto-) plankton and animal (zoo-) plankton, the youngsters grow quickly and are then able to eat larger plankton. Bigger fish larvae and jellyfish in the plankton are a real danger and my babies have to make smart evasive moves if they feel they are about to be grabbed!
Over the summer the eggs that I have been caring for have developed well; you can see them on the ceiling above my head. They look like amethyst gems (see Barbara’s eggs in the photograph) when first laid, then progress to a gold colour with a paler centre. Just before they hatch, their eyes become very obvious and it looks as though they are watching what I’m up to. I still clean all of them regularly by wiping them with my special gland (see blog 26/06/15) and protect them from predators.
It won’t be long now before the ones with well-developed eyes hatch. I will be sad to see them leave but my job is done. They need to go into the plankton and find the right size food so they can grow into young fish.
Here, I’m using my pectoral (shoulder) fins to fan water over Belinda’s developing eggs and keep them healthy. I also have a special gland near my tail that releases important stuff to keep bugs from growing on the eggs. Female tompot blennies like Belinda take care to lay their eggs in a single layer that makes it easy for me to give them all a good wipe over.
Since Belinda’s visit, two other female tompot blennies (let’s call them Barbara and Brenda) have been attracted by my smelly messages (pheromones) and have been flirting just outside my home at different times. I’ve encouraged them in and they have laid their eggs next to Belinda’s. I fertilised them straight away, as I need to make sure I’m their Dad. I have to be on my guard because lots of animals would love to eat my eggs. I can’t leave them unguarded for more than a few moments so I have to grab my own food very quickly!