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Sarcastic fringehead

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Sarcastic fringehead
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Blenniiformes
Family: Chaenopsidae
Genus: Neoclinus
N. blanchardi
Binomial name
Neoclinus blanchardi
Girard, 1858
A sarcastic fringehead living in a plastic tube
Dead specimen with open mouth

The sarcastic fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi) is a small but hardy saltwater tube-blenny that possesses a large mouth and aggressive territorial behavior, for which it has been given its common name.[2] The specific name honours Dr. S. B. Blanchard of San Diego, California, who collected specimens of this blenny, and passed them on to Charles Frédéric Girard, who described it.[3]


Sarcastic fringeheads can be up to 30 centimetres (12 in) long,[4] elegant and slender,[2] and are mostly scaleless with great pectoral fins and reduced pelvic fins. The swimming movements of these fish mainly consists of short dart-like movements.[5] They are typically brown in color.[6]

Male sarcastic fringeheads are distinguished by their extremely wide mouth gape, which when open may be as much as four times its size when closed. The interior of the mouth is brightly colored.[6]

Ecology and behavior[edit]

Sarcastic fringeheads live along sandy and muddy bottoms below the low tide line. They tend to inhabit objects and cavities, such shells, burrows, and crevices; they are also found living in man-made objects, such as bottles and soda cans.[4][6] The female spawns under a rock, in clam burrows, or in other containers, after which the male guards the eggs until they hatch.[4]

Due to size of their mouths, sarcastic fringeheads cannot suction-feed. During squid spawning season, they can consume large numbers of squid eggs.[6]

When two fringeheads have a territorial scuffle, they wrestle by pressing their distended mouths against each other, in a kissing motion. They press against each other until one is able to bite the other's head.[7] This allows them to determine which is the larger fish, which establishes dominance.[8] This is thought to be male-male competition for shelter.[citation needed]


They are found in the Pacific, off the coast of North America, from San Francisco, California, to central Baja California. Their depth range is from 3 to 73 metres (10 to 240 ft).[4]


  1. ^ Williams, J.T.; Craig, M.T. (2014). "Neoclinus blanchardi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2014: e.T185133A1770082. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-3.RLTS.T185133A1770082.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Sarcastic Fringehead: Neoclinus blanchardi". Aquarium of the Pacific.
  3. ^ Christopher Scharpf; Kenneth J. Lazara (10 November 2018). "Order BLENNIIFORMES: Families CLINIDAE, LABRISOMIDAE and CHAENOPSIDAE". ETYFish Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2013). "Neoclinus blanchardi" in FishBase. February 2013 version.
  5. ^ Hongjamrassilp, W. (2018). Heterochrony in fringeheads (neoclinus) and amplification of an extraordinary aggressive display in the sarcastic fringehead (teleostei: Blenniiformes). Journal of Morphology (1931), 279(5) Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmor.20798
  6. ^ a b c d "Sarcastic Fringehead". Oceana. Oceana. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  7. ^ Hongjamrassilp, Watcharapong; Skelton, Zachary; Hastings, Philip (2023-05-09). "Function of an extraordinary display in sarcastic fringeheads (Neoclinus blanchardi) with comments on its evolution". Ecology: Ecological Society of America. 104 (1).
  8. ^ Denny, Mark; Steven Gaines (2002). Chance in Biology. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 13. ISBN 0691094942.

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