Territorial disputes – mouth fighting

C Paul Naylor

Now the introductions are over, I will bring you up to date with what I’m up to. I spent most of the winter tucked up deep inside my crevice home. At the end of March, with the sea getting a little warmer, I got more active. I’m not the only tompot blenny on my reef and my male rivals started challenging me to take over my home and make it their territory.

A younger male came and tried to chase me out of my home. As you can see from the photograph above, we both stood our ground for a while and sized each other up. I opened my mouth in a threatening way and showed him my teeth and, when he didn’t back off, I darted at him and gave him a bite on his lip. He tried the same back and this is called ‘mouth fighting’. I was better at dodging his bites and managed to land a few nasty nips with my sharp comb-like teeth. He backed off and I showed that I’m the boss of my territory!

Tompot blennies like me, live all around the UK

20150604 004 BOB Tompot blenny distribution map from NBN Gateway 20052015

 

I’m a pretty successful coastal fish and can generally be found anywhere from just below the low tide mark down to 30 metres deep where there is suitable habitat. I need a cosy hole or crevice to live in and this can be in a rocky reef, under a boulder or in something man-made like a pier or ship-wreck; I’m easily pleased!

I want to show you where fish like me, tompot blennies, have been seen around Britain. This map shows it perfectly, thank you National Biodiversity Network Gateway website and thanks to the people who recorded their sightings of tompot blennies around Britain and Ireland. data.nbn.org.uk

Did you know that if you want to know where you can find a strawberry anemone, a spiny starfish (or even the strange animals and plants that live on land) you can use the NBN Gateway website to find out?

I’m a smart fish

Tompot blenny RL 1310 186

Let’s get to grips with what a fantastic fish I am. The top photograph shows my excellent wedge-shaped body which helps me stay secure in my crevice. I usually sit with just my head poking out from my home so that:

I can see what’s going on – I’m looking for my next meal or keeping an eye out for a predator that wants to eat me!

I can sniff the water for interesting smells with my superb head tentacles and smaller nose tentacles. Is there food nearby or maybe a partner?

I can dart out and bite anything that comes too close with my strong comb-like teeth. (I belong to a group of fish called the combtooth blennies).

I keep the rest of my body tucked safely away.

The other pictures show some other tompot blennies looking out from their homes too!

Someone’s blowing bubbles outside my home

Tompot blenny RL 1220 157

‘Fins alive!’ Who is this looking into my crevice? I’ve been watching their bubbles and I’m so nosy I’m going out to take a look. It’s the diver that keeps popping by, when its calm, to see what I’m up to. She makes strange squeaky noises as though she’s trying to talk to me. I think she’s saying that she’s written a book to tell everyone about my life. I’m such an amazing fish that now I’ve got my own blog – that’s technology for you!

Talking of technology, have you noticed I don’t need a large air tank on my back like the one she has? I’ve got gills that take the oxygen I need straight out of the seawater.

The diver is much bigger than me but I’m not afraid because, if she gets any closer, I know I can wriggle safely back into my home. My body is wedge-shaped and ideal for slithering into narrow cracks in the rock. You can see that I’m a small fish around 15 centimetres long, but you will soon find out that I am the boss of my rock!

Hello, I’m Benny the Blenny. I’m a real fish with lots to tell you!

Hello, I’m Benny the Blenny.

I’m very excited to be starting my blog on WordPress, telling you all about the wonderful world in the sea around Britain. Who am I? I’m a small fish, a tompot blenny, that lives very close to rocky and stony beaches. You could spot me if you go snorkelling or you might sometimes find me in rockpools if the tide is very low.

In my blog, I’ll be telling you all about me and what my superb red head tentacles are for, what happens in my life and what all my neighbours are doing. I usually live in the same spot for a long time, and I will tell you about the other animals that I see from my home – like crabs, starfish, cuttlefish and many more!

This blog is being posted for children on the Wildlife Trusts Wildlife Watch website.

Wildlife Watch Benny the Blenny’s blog that site also has lots of fun things to look at too.

You can also find out more about me on Bennytheblenny.com