In this minute of relaxation, we would like to introduce you to a creature, that despite being quite the character, is often overlooked by most that visit the tropical reefs of the Caribbean: Roughhead Blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera). Looking at the creature, it’s easy to understand how this name came to be. The so-called “roughness” refers to the slender appendages/hair-like growth on the blenny’s head named “cirri”. Incidentally, the word “cirri” is derived from the plural version of the high altitude cirrus cloud, which are able to create these beautiful, whispy, and streaky patterns in the sky. Just to give you an idea, of how awesome its haircut is!
Relax with the Roughhead Blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera)
Some might say that Roughheads look a bit pre-historical in its appearance, and they wouldn’t be wrong with that observation. Fossiles of Blennies date back to the Paleogene period, which started about 65 million years ago. To put that in perspective, that is around the time Keith Richards was born!
The life of a Roughhead Blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera)
If one intends to admire Acanthemblemaria aspera in all its glory, as well as its amazing haircut, of course, it would probably be best to bring some form of magnification device, be it a macro lens or a magnifying glass, for this funky little fish grows to a maximum size of 4cm/1”. They inhabit shallow coastal waters from 2-20m/6-60ft and are not overly picky about where they live. They are known as burrow creatures and find a place to live in just about every nook and cranny of the reef, if not in the corals themselves. Not that they construct their own burrows, but more that they occupy holes left by other marine life, like worms and molluscs. A bit like a squatter with good hair, so to say. Although some of them have been known to bury themselves in the seafloor.
They come in many different colour variations, and can adapt their colouration to blend into any neighbourhood they happen to find themselves in. That being said, the females are often more lightly coloured. They’re oviparous, and after mating the female covers the walls of the male’s burrow with her eggs, and leaves them for him to defend until they hatch. After which the young fry go through a 22-day pelagic phase, and eventually settle down in a new area to find a home for themselves. They have excellent eyesight and prefer to dine on drifting, floating, or falling amphipods and/or copepods, that happen to pass by their burrows. This “hunting” action results in a kind of swaying head movement, which has led to the creature’s nickname, the “Stevie Wonder Fish”.
Another stunning creature, in another beautiful part of this amazing blue planet!