It may appear to be a tardy little gentleman, yet all of a sudden… it reveals itself to be tough. The sarcastic fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi) has an odd name and an even odder attitude. This fʀɪɢʜᴛᴇɴɪɴɢ tiny fish can fʀɪɢʜᴛen creatures considerably larger than itself with a single display of its swollen mouth, which is broader than its head, or even its entire body.
This ultra-aggressive little guy, discovered in 1858, develops only to approximately 30 centimeters (12 inches) in length, with a long and thin body, huge pectoral fins, and much smaller pelvic fins. It may be found in the Pacific Ocean, off the coasts of North America, from San Francisco, California, to Baja California, Mexico.
Sarcastic fringeheads are ᴀᴍʙᴜsʜ predators, which means they will seek out a hidey hole that will provide them with both security and a vantage position from which to ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋ ᴠɪᴄᴛɪᴍs. Once they’ve reverse-parked into their preferred nook, they’ll charge at anybody that gets too close — including divers.
And, according to the survivors, they dislike letting go. These fish are considered to be fɪᴇʀᴄᴇ fɪɢʜᴛᴇʀs. When two fringeheads fight over territory, their enlarged jaws press together, giving the impression that they are kissing – but they are actually determining who the larger fish is.
The larger fish – or, more correctly, the fish with the larger jaw – wins supremacy, which means it gets the better den and the opportunity to m.a.t.e. The female then deposits hundreds of eggs in the desired position, which the male ꜰᴇʀᴛɪʟɪᴢᴇs. He then uses even more oral aggression to safeguard his progeny.
According to marine researcher Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp’s thesis research, fringeheads communicate with each other by using the distinct vibrant colors on their lips. But they don’t appear to have many positive things to say.
The term ‘fringehead’ relates to the floppy fronds of tissue that fall over the fish’s eyes, while ‘sarcastic’ is assumed to stem from either the animal’s sardonic closed-mouth look or the Greek word sarkázein, which means ‘to shred flesh.’ And, well, either of them may be correct – just take a look at this. But, due to their diminutive stature, they aren’t as fʀɪɢʜᴛᴇɴɪɴɢ as they wish they were.