Side view of horned blenny on the Aster

Sea life: Blennies

More often than not, the horned blenny (Parablennius cornutus) will be seen in the attitude above – hiding (annoyingly) in a crevice or, as in this case, a vent on top of the superstructure of the wreck of the MV Aster.

Blenny hiding on the Aster
Blenny hiding on the Aster

On a dive on the Aster in mid February we spotted another specimen, lying on the deck towards the bow of the wreck.┬áThese fish are renowned for their skittishness, but this one was so relaxed that I had to check with Guido at SURG that I was in fact making the correct identification! Guido has written more than one volume on identifying marine life in the area and is working on a book project at the moment, so he’s the man to speak to.

Top view of loose-skin blenny, on the Aster
Top view of loose-skin blenny, on the Aster

Guido says that what has previously been thought to be a horned blenny (i.e. this fish) is actually something else. He says:

Instead, this species is Chaloderma capito, the loose-skin blenny. In many instances this is clearly visible, as especially around the head the skin has many folds. This is visible in your specimen as well.

Side view of loose-skin blenny on the Aster
Side view of loose-skin blenny on the Aster

In fact, horned blennies are really hard to find and see, and it turns out that several of the books on marine life in this area mistake the loose skinned blenny for the horned blenny. Guido sent me a picture of a real horned blenny, and instead of the fluffy tufts that this specimen has above its eyes, it has two very distinctive, long, pointy horns that give it its name.

Loose-skin blenny on the Aster
Loose-skin blenny on the Aster

Science in action! What would we do without SURG! I certainly wouldn’t know one tenth as much as I do about marine life in the Cape were it not for Guido and company’s frequent help with tricky questions of fish identification.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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