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Sea of Cortez 810

Family Chaenopsidae
Tube and Pike Blennies
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned)
Order: Perciformes

Key Features:
Compressed elongated body, almost anguillliform in many species.  Often with both supraorbital and nasal cirri.   Found in empty vermetid gastropod tubes as well as barnacles, parchment worm tubes, and boring mollusk tubes, depending on species.             

Notable Species in the Sea of Cortez

Acanthemblemaria crockeri
Browncheek Blenny
Emblemaria hypacanthus
Signal Blenny
Coralliozetus angelicus
Angel Blenny
Chaenopsis alepidota
Orangethroat Pikeblenny

Acanthemblemaria crockeri tube blenny, Cabo Pulmo, Baja, Mexico

Acanthemblemaria crockeri
Browncheek Blenny

Cabo Pulmo, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Family Chaenopsidae
Tube and Pike Blennies (Trambollos tubiculos)

Most chaenopsids live in the small calcareous tubes secreted by invertebrates such as tube snails and tube worms.  When these invertebrates pass, tube blennies are more than happy to take up residence.  These small blennies are scaleless and have a reduced or absent lateral line.  Many have well developed supraorbital cirri that resemble eyelashes.  The tube blennies utilize courtship strategies similar to the jawfishes where males will either extend their bodies out of their tubes or dart above them to flash their fins for the female’s delight.  In several of these species such as the signal blenny, Emblemaria hypacanthus, the male dorsal fin may be greatly exaggerated, extending several times his body height.  Following copulation the females will deposit their eggs in the males tube home leaving the male to tend to them. 

The browncheek blenny, Acanthemblemaria crockeri, is endemic to the Sea of Cortez and is amongst the commonest tube blennies from the Midriff Islands north of Bahia Kino to Cabo San Lucas.  Snorkelers and scuba divers often encounter these small fishes in depths ranging from five feet to over one hundred feet on the tops of large boulders and along rocky outcroppings. 

The signal blenny is another species that is endemic to the Sea of Cortez and has a distribution similar to that of the browncheek blenny, although the distribution of the signal blenny is skewed northward while the distribution of the browncheek blenny is skewed to the south.  Besides the sail-like dorsal fin of the signal blenny, the easiest way to differentiate these two common species is the presence of a large brown spot on the operculum of the browncheek blenny. 

The only chaenopsids that do not live in tubes secured to reefs or rocks are the pikeblennies.  The pikeblennies instead choose to live in sandy patches near reefs, inhabiting the discarded tubes of parchment worms.  Unlike the signal blennies that flash their dorsal fins to attract females, pikeblennies instead flash their throats by extending their brachiostegal rays.  Rising several inches over the sandy bottoms the orangethroat pikeblenny, Chaenopsis alepidota, will assume an s-shape posture and flash a massive orange throat to attract females. 




Updated August 28, 2009

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