Zaca Blenny

Zaca Blenny, Malacoctenus zacae

The Zaca Blenny, Malacoctenus zacae, whose common Spanish name is trambollo aletiamarilla, is a species in the Labrisomid Blenny or Labrisomidae Family, known collectively as trambollos in Mexico. The Zaca Blenny was named after one of the world’s finest yachts, the Zaca ( which is the subject of extensive myths and legends. In 1946 actor Errol Flynn took the Zaca on a scientific expedition to the Sea of Cortez and coastal Mexican waters. The crew included Carl Hubbs, the then curator of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography fish collection. The trip was a fiasco as all hands, including crew, jumped ship in Acapulco. The Zaca is also featured in the movie The Lady from Shanghai starring Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth and is currently moored in Monte Carlo. Globally, there are eighteen species in the genus Malacoctenus, fourteen of which are found in Mexican waters, six in the Atlantic and eight in the Pacific.

The Zaca Blennies have shortened elongated bodies with a uniform depth throughout that tapers gradually at the rear into the tail. The sexes have similar coloration being pale olive with five faint dark saddles on their back, a dark greenish-brown stripe from the eye to the caudal fin base, and a dark spot where the stripe is crossed by the dark bars. They also have six greenish-brown lines along their lower body. Their belly and pectoral fins are yellowish, their anal fin is transparent or has dark bars, their caudal fin is transparent or with elongated spots on the rays, and their dorsal fin may or may not have spotting. Their head is slender with a pointed snout, large eyes, a branched cirrus over each eye, and a pair of closely set and heavily branched cirri. Their mouth is small, opens at the front, and is equipped with one row of large teeth on the upper jaw. Their anal fin has two spines and 18 to 20 rays; their caudal fin is square; and their dorsal fin has 10 spines and 9 to 11 rays with a slight notch in between. They have 9 to 11 gill rakers. They are covered with small scales.

The Zaca Blennies are a shallow water coastal species found at depths up to 35 feet. They reach a maximum length of 6.5 cm (2.6 inches). They are diurnal highly territorial predators that feed mostly on benthic crustaceans including small crabs. Reproduction is oviparous with females depositing eggs in protected areas. The Zaca Blenny is poorly studied and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Zaca Blenny are found from Guerrero Negro southward along the central and southwest coasts of Baja and from Mazatlán south along the west coast of the mainland; they are absent from the Sea of Cortez.

 The Zaca Blenny can be easily confused with the Fishgod Blenny, Malacoctenus ebisui (small white spots covering body), the Glossy Blenny, Malacoctenus zonifer (throat and belly covered with dark spots), and the Redside Blenny, Malacoctenus hubbsi (flank with narrow stripes).

Due to its size the Zaca Blenny is of limited interest to most.

Zaca Blenny, Malacoctenus zacae. Fish collected from a tidal pool at Km 17, El Tule, Baja California Sur, January 2007. Length: 1.2 cm (0.5 inches). Fish identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.