Double Take!

Emblemariopsis Rotating Eyes Ned DeLoach
Seeing the Shorthead Blenny’s eyes rotate backward is one thing – getting the shot was another!

And a double take is just what I did when the big round eyes of this Shorthead Blenny rolled onto Ned’s laptop screen. Something wasn’t quite right with the picture so I took a second look and the image fell into place: The tiny blenny’s googly eyes were rotated backwards staring directly behind the fish’s head at Ned’s approaching camera port—a vision of visual dexterity that would make any blenny lover proud.

Shorthead Blenny in Bonaire Ned DeLoach
Ned was photographing this Shorthead Blenny when he saw its eyes rotate backward.

Ned’s preoccupation with backward focused blenny eyes began when he found the Shorthead Blenny (Emblemariopsis bottomei) living within the grooves of a helmet-sized brain coral growing on the side of a large concrete mooring block. I knew Ned was hung up on something. Each time I swam past the block where he was working, his body was contorted, sometimes to extremes; once I saw him standing on his head (well, floating upside down) with his eye still pasted to the viewfinder. However, persistence paid. Three dives and something like four hours later, bingo, everything fell into place.

Shorthead Blenny Emblemariopsis bottomei Ned DeLoach
Shorthead Blenny, Emblemariopsis bottomei from Bonaire

The photo above is a Shorthead Blenny, which we think is a male. A few weeks ago, in our Bonaire Blenny Challenge Week 3, I posted a male in its nuptial colors labeled as Emblemariopsis sp. that Dr. Ben Victor has since identified it as E. bottomei. From Ben: “All the Emblemariopsis in Bonaire are E. bottomei…Females and juveniles with a spike, males without and clear to black.” I’m posting the nuptial male again below, for comparison to how very different it looks from juveniles, females and non-courting males of its species. Thanks to Ned’s photo of the amazing rotating eyes, I spent a lot more time watching these tiny fish during our Bonaire stay.

Blenny - Emblemariopsis sp. Ned DeLoach
Emblemariopsis sp. male in his nuptial colors