Final thoughts from my 2011 blenny files plus a video from my 2004 archives:
We have had a long-running discussion with some of our fishwatching friends about the Starksia blennies, in particular the ones we see in Bonaire. Are they Dwarf (S. nanodes) or Ringed (S. hassi) blennies? Some didn’t seem to fit any description that we knew. In early 2011, the Smithsonian Institution’s Dr. Carole Baldwin and coauthors, published a paper, Seven new species within western Atlantic Starksia atlantica, S. lepicoelia, and S. sluiteri (Teleostei, Labrisomidae), with comments on congruence of DNA barcodes and species. It seems that DNA analysis (along with traditional examination) shows that the three previously known species are actually ten! So, while we have not yet sorted out the id’s for our Starksia photos, we do feel a whole lot better about our own confusion….
One of the coauthors of that blenny paper is Dr. Ben Victor. We met him in person this past July when we finally had the opportunity to dive with our friends from ReefNet. Ben joined our group for a two week “blenny fest” in Dominica where one of our goals was to survey fish in the areas accessible by diving. Our final count was over 225; as Kris Wilk noted, “pretty good considering the similar habitats of many of the dive sites and tight area we were diving near Scott’s Head.” Rumor has it there might be an undescribed species or two in the count – we await results from Ben’s DNA work.
The Dominica trip was our last opportunity to add video to Blenny Week, our parody production by the Octopus Amy that splashed on YouTube at the end of July. Dr. Wendy, Blenny Vet and Claire the Blenny Hunter are working on ideas for Season 2. The fun starts in June at Eco Divers Lembeh and there is still time to join us.
The goal of our last dive of 2011, covered earlier in the Blenny Fever post, was to find a Seaweed Blenny with eggs. Bill Barnes captured a great fight while observing the same population of blennies the week before. According to Bill, a blenny was guarding an egg clutch when the aggressor attacked and after an extended battle, ate the eggs – wow! Just shows how spending a long time observing a single subject can be rewarded with interesting behavior. With Bill’s permission, I loaded a short clip from a low-res sneak peek – he has a better version in the works.
Finally, because we must end the year with cute, a video from the 2004 archives: Blenny Lunch