We found it – the Tessellated Blenny – a great way to end week 5 of our Bonaire Blenny Challenge! Ned teased me for telling the world that we were looking for this fish because he had lost faith in finding it. Although I received reports of previous sightings, all we found were Orangespotted blennies, fish that look similar at first glance. Our friend Ellen Muller took it upon herself to make inquiries and sent me a detailed list of possible locations, compiled by another local expert Sipke Stapert, which we followed systematically, until finally, success. Ellen is one of the first people we consult when looking for something on Bonaire because if she hasn’t already seen it (which is rare), she knows someone who has (check out her beautiful images at her photo site here).
The last time we saw a Tessellated Blenny, Hypsoblennius invemar, was in the mid-90s and I had forgotten how pretty they are. Like the Orangespotted Blenny, they are small, live in empty barnacle shells and have lots of orange to brick colored spots. The Tessellated has a distinctive dark spot just behind the eye. For my old eyes, it takes a minute of close examination with a light to verify that the spot is present and sometimes I still called Ned over to what ended up being another Orangespotted Blenny. Viewed close up, either with a good camera or my handy SubSee Magnifier, other differences, such as the shape of the cirri and the spot patterns, are evident between the two species. An interesting note: The Tessellated Blenny is native to Venezuela, Colombia and the Lesser Antilles and considered introduced (nonindigenous) throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the coast of southeast Florida (ref. USGS nonindigenous fact sheet).
The Hairy Blenny, Labrisomus nuchipinnis was everywhere. We saw them, ranging from 2 to 6 inches long, on every shore dive we made. Most were not particularly shy, allowing us to get really good looks. They were usually under and around the very shallow shore rocks but on one occasion, we found two high up on a dock piling in the middle of a prolonged battle – presumably over a female, since one sported courting colors.
Our last image from this month’s hunt is the Redlip Blenny (Ophioblennius atlanticus). This was the first blenny I learned to identify when I started diving and though common in some places, is still among my favorites. There are a lot of them in Bonaire and still much fun to watch.
We have had a super time on Bonaire and thanks to all our naturalist friends here, have had a very successful blenny hunt. I hand-drew two maps of where we saw many blennies this year: one of the blennies of Buddy Reef (17 species from the sea wall to the reef) and one of the Bonaire blennies from sites around the island. I left both the Buddy Reef and island blenny maps with Augusto Montbrun, Buddy Dive Resort’s Dive Operations Manager and a copy of the island map with Susan Porter of Bonaire Shore Diving Made Easy. If you are visiting Bonaire soon, look them up for the info – or – ask around – there are quite a few other blenny aficionados on the island who know where to find the fish. We did see a lot of other things this month, including octopus, cool razorfish behavior and, dare I say it, gobies. So stay tuned for more. And to our Bonaire friends, (I like Douglas Adams and have always wanted to quote him): So long, and thanks for all the fish!