Puffcheek Blenny

Puffcheek Blenny, Gobioclinus bucciferus

The Puffcheek Blenny, Gobioclinus bucciferus, whose common Spanish name is trambollo fumador, is a species in the Labrisomid Blenny or Labrisomidae Family, known collectively as trambollos in Mexico. This fish has recently been reclassified from Labrisomus bucciferus. Globally, there are seven species in the genus Gobioclinus, of which five are found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic.

The Puffcheek Blennies have robust bodies with a uniform depth throughout that tapers gradually at the rear and into the tail. They are brownish with five irregular brown bars on their sides, the last three of which extend into the dorsal fin, and a row of dark spots along the center flank between these bars. They have two dark spots behind their eyes and an oblique dark bar that runs down and posteriorly from their eyes. They are sexually dimorphic with males having red heads and red bars on their fins and females having heavily spotted fins. Their head has a short blunt snout, large eyes, a branched cirrus over each eye, two heavily branched cirri on each side of the nape, and a large terminal slightly oblique mouth equipped with a mixture of small and large teeth. Their anal fin has two spines and 19 to 21 rays; their caudal fin is square; and their dorsal fin has 19 to 21 spines, with the first being the longest, and 10 to 12 rays with a deep notch in between. They are covered with small smooth scales.

The Puffcheek Blennies are a shallow water coastal species found within weed-covered rocky shores and in tidal pools at depths up to 20 feet. They reach a maximum length of 9.0 cm (3.5 inches). They are diurnal and highly territorial predators that feed mostly on benthic crustaceans including small crabs. Reproduction is oviparous with females depositing eggs in protected areas. They are poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Puffcheek Blennies have a limited distribution being found along the East Coast of the Yucatán south to Belize.

The Puffcheek Blenny can be easily confused with a series of other Labrisomid Blennies including the Downy Blenny, Gobioclinus kalisherae, the Hairy Blenny, Labrisomus nuchipinnis, the Longfin Blenny, Gobioclinus haitiensis, the Mimic Blenny, Gobioclinus guppyi, the Palehead Blenny, Gobioclinus gobio, and the Whitecheek Blenny, Labrisomus albigenys, which all have similar body shapes, colorations, and barring patterns. Correct fish identification requires consultation with individuals having knowledge of blennies in the area or the differences between members of the Gobioclinus and Labrisomus genera.

Due to their small size, the Puffcheek Blennies are of limited interest to most but are used by the aquarium trade at a nominal level. From a conservation perspective, they are currently considered of Least Concern, being abundant with stable and widely distributed populations.

Puffcheek Blenny, Gobioclinus bucciferus, Male. Fish caught from the beach at Playa del Carmine, Yucatán, Quintana Roo, March 2017. Length: 7.3 cm (2.9 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.