s are medium sized, coastal
water dwelling marine
fish, which ranges from central California
to central Baja California
. Their real (genus/species) name is Neoclinus blanchardi
, although with a common name as cool as "Sarcastic Fringehead" is, they should never be called it. I was unable to find etymology
for the the name, so I'm going to assume it comes from the shape of the fish's closed mouth
, which looks like a huge, smug, closed-lipped grin
-- the universally annoying facial expression of sarcasm
. As for the "fringe
head" bit, the fish do indeed have flaps of skin, cirri
, above their eyes and on their head, adding "eyebrow
s" to their sarcastic look.
The fringehead is to fish what the hermit crab is to crustaceans, in that it lives in places that were built by other animals. Fringeheads are shelter-dwellers, and will live in anything they can find that's the right size, whether it's natural in origin or man made. Smaller fringeheads live in shells, bottles, and beer cans, while larger ones either find a depression hollowed out by another animal, or move into tires, boots, microwaves, etc.
While Sarcastic Fringeheads only grow to be at most a foot long, and most are only three to eight inches, they have an impressive mouth at any size. The mouth opening goes almost back to the fish's gill slits, and it has razor sharp triangular teeth along the upper and lower gum for its entire length. When threatened, or as a display of territorial rights, the fish can unhinge its jaw sort of like some snakes and open it to a relatively obtuse angle, showing any predator or competitor it's entire array of weaponry. If that approach fails, Sarcastic Fringeheads are quick to attack, and will fearlessly hold on to attackers many times their size. Fringehead teeth shouldn't go through a scuba suit, and skin divers only have to worry if they go more than about 200 feet from shore.
Spawning happens between January and August, and eggs are guarded by the male rather than the female. Males usually keep the eggs in their mouths for greatest protection, but if there's a threat the male may deposit the eggs at his dwelling so he can use his mouth against the threat. Each egg also has a bundle of adhesive filaments, and the egg mass can be attached to a surface if needed.