Panamic Fanged Blenny

Panamic Fanged Blenny, Ophioblennius steindachneri

The Panamic Fanged Blenny, Ophioblennius steindachneri, whose common Spanish name is borracho mono, is a species in the Combtooth Blennies or Blennidae Family, known collectively as borrachos in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Horse Faced Blenny. Globally, there are only five species in the genus Ophioblennius, two of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Panamic Fanged Blennies have elongated compressed cylindrical bodies and are the largest Combtooth Blenny found in Mexican waters. They are named for the pair of large canines found far back on their lower jaw which are used for defense. They are dark brown with yellowish bars on their head and anterior portion of their body. They have a prominent large black spot with a whitish margin high on their head behind the eyes and a white area on the belly under the head. Juveniles are translucent with a prominent black bar across the base of their caudal fin and red caudal and pectoral fins. They have a short head with a very steep profile (absent in juveniles), disproportionately large eyes, and a small non-protrusible mouth that opens in the front and is equipped with one row of comb-like teeth on each jaw and a pair of canines on the lower jaw. They have slender and unbranched cirri above their eyes, on their nape, and on the posterior edge of their anterior nostril. Their anal fin has a long base with two spines and 22 to 24 rays; their caudal fin is rounded; and their dorsal fin has a long base with 11 to 13 spines and 21 to 23 rays without a notch in between. Their lateral line is divided into two independent overlapping segments. Their skin is smooth and without scales.

The Panamic Fanged Blennies are a non-migratory coastal species found in intertidal and subtidal rocky areas at depths up to 60 feet. They reach a maximum length of 17.8 cm (7.0 inches). They prefer the surge zone of unprotected rocks with steep slopes and have the ability to wedge themselves in crevices close to shore in shallow waters. They are highly territorial and will vigorously defend their habitat against intruders. They are diurnal and feed on algae and sessile crustaceans. Reproduction is oviparous in distinct pairs with the females depositing eggs in protected areas. The eggs are sticky and adhere to the walls of the shelter; they are then fertilized by the males who guard them for two to three weeks until they hatch. They are the most abundant Combtooth Blenny along rocky shorelines in the tropical Eastern Pacific. They are a small shallow-water species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Panamic Fanged Blennies are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Guerrero Negro northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Panamic Fanged Blenny is a fairly easy species to identify due to its uniform body color, steep head profile, and black spot behind the eyes. The possible exception is the Notchfin Blenny, Entomacrodus chiostictus (deeply notched dorsal fin with mottled coloration).

The Panamic Fanged Blennies are too small to be of interest to most and are normally a “catch-and-release”, however, they are used on a limited basis by the aquarium trade.

Panamic Fanged Blenny (1)

Panamic Fanged Blenny, Ophioblennius steindachneri. juvenile, transitioning juvenile, young adult, and mature adult. Each collected from tidal pools in the greater Los Cabos area, February 2004 through May 2014. Length: 6.0 cm (2.4 inches) to 9.0 cm (3.5 inches). Identifications confirmed by H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.