Sarcastic fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi), a small but extremely aggressive animal is mostly known for its name. With a large mouth, they are proclaimed as spectacularly ugly in the scientific literature.
Fringeheads are usually 30 cms long, slender, elongate, and moderately compressed. They are generally brown in color with tinges of red and green or pale blotches. Their long dorsal fin extends from the rear of the head almost to the rounded caudal fin. Heads are very large, with bluntly rounded snouts and prominent lips. The huge jaw extends back well past the eye and is larger in males than females. These fish have numerous needle-like teeth and wavy, fringe-like appendages called cirri over their eyes. This fascinating fish lives in the Pacific waters, off the coast of North America - from San Francisco, the USA to Baja California in Mexico.
source- BBC earth
Fringeheads are tube blenny, they live in burrows or tube-like structures created by other animals, like by burrowing clams or by empty snail shells. Some individuals have even been observed living inside soda bottles or other manmade materials. They are ambush predators, so they like to stake out a hidey hole that offers them both protection and a great vantage point from where to pounce on prey. Once they've reversed parked into their chosen nook, they'll aggressively charge at anything that comes too near - including divers. And rumor has it, they don't like to let go. Instead of entering a hole or burrow head-first; fringeheads frequently back into it, eliminating the need to turn around.
This species is known for the incredible display behaviors in which combating males engage when defending adjacent territories. Male sarcastic fringeheads display to each other by opening their very largemouths in the direction of their rivals. The mouth’s intimidating coloration, combined with the extreme nature of its size (which may be as much as four times its closed size) allows the larger male to establish dominance over the smaller. Oftentimes, the rivals’ mouths are thrust very near to each other, sometimes touching. The smaller individual typically surrenders and leaves the area, without the pair actually fighting.
Marine biologist Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp's thesis research suggests that they use the colorfulness of their mouths to communicate with each other. They don't look like they've got many nice things to say:
Female sarcastic fringeheads, like all tube blennies, lay their eggs in a males’ shelter, and the males protect them from potential predators and other threats until they hatch. This sexual selection by females drives a system of intense male competition and territoriality.
Fringeheads are ambush predators, jumping out from their shelter to surprise prey swimming or moving by, What they eat in the wild is not known. Closely related fish such as pike-blennies, tubeblennies, and flagblennies are known to feed primarily on crustaceans. A sarcastic fringehead’s needle-sharp teeth probably help it to ensnare slippery, moving prey. The grossly oversized mouths of the males may negatively affect their ability to feed. Most tube blennies feed on very small planktonic prey, but this species is unable to suction feed. They likely eat a variety of prey. During squid spawning season, sarcastic fringeheads can be observed eating large numbers of squid eggs, a valuable food source for many species.
These fishes are believed to live about 6 years. Although a fish of this size would be expected to be subject to larger predators, its ability to protect itself probably minimizes this danger.It is unlikely that anyone intentionally fishes for this tiny, pugnacious fish. Sometimes accidentally caught, sport and commercial fishers are usually not comfortable handling the fish because there is a good chance of being bitten by the needle-sharp teeth of an angry fringehead unwilling to let go. Sarcastic fringehead is not targeted by fisheries and is not accidentally captured in fisheries targeting other species. Scientists believe this species to be one of least concern – it is not currently at risk of extinction. This species is not included on the IUCN Red List.
Ways to help for ocean conservation
Event- International Conference on Marine Protected Areas and Fisheries Management
Date- 8th February 2021
Place- Mumbai, India
Donations and events- livingoceansfoundation.org/outreach/events/
Events and webinars- https://sevenseasmedia.org/ocean-conservation-global-events/