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  • Writer's pictureMartha Iserman

The Sarcastic Fringehead

Neoclinus blanchardi

AKA: No known other names

No, it's not just my middle school nickname. It's the Oscar the Grouch of the Sea- The Sarcastic Fringehead.

These scaleless fish are the largest in the family Chaenopsidae, which consists of percomorphi in the order Blenniiformes. That's a lot of big words to say it's a pretty large weird-looking saltwater fish, but we'll get to that later.

They live in the coastal waters of California and Northern Mexico's Baja Peninsula and hang out in rocky coral areas. Their favorite homes are in dens, burrows, and seashells on the ocean floor, and because humans are the worst, the occasional trash like discarded plastic bottles. Males get cozy by backing that ass up into their chosen home so they can keep an eye on their terrain.

The name 'Fringehead' comes from the floppy filaments of tissue called cirri that fall over their eyes. One would think the 'Sarcastic' moniker refers to its grim facial expression.

Or existential dread

In reality, it's a reference to the root of the word 'sarcastic' which is the greek the Greek 'sarkázein', which means "to tear flesh". That's because these teeth are no joke. Razor-sharp and needle-like, The Fringehead uses their chompers to pin and tear at slippery prey. Unfortunately, scientists don't know exactly what that prey is. We know they like squid eggs when available but beyond that it's anyone's guess.

Not that its for a lack of trying on SF's part. These guys are AGGRO. We're talking hot-headed pugnacious little bastards. These cantankerous bullies are always itching for a fight. They will attack anything that comes into their view, regardless of size including any diver who happens to come across them, which happens often.

And here's where we come to the crazy part. The Sarcastic Fringehead has a GIANT mouth, one that when open is 4 times the size as it is closed, with colorful large lips and the aforementioned needle teeth. It's sail like cheeks and laterally-splayed jawbones are bright yellow, orange and green in color, with a purple tongue, making it the evil clown of the ocean floor.

Surpirse B*tch!

And of course the males use this crazy kisser to assert dominance. Because they are so territorial, if males find each other within their toxic masculinity bubble they'll fight. Did I say fight? I meant aggressively threaten to makeout like drunk guys at the end of a frat party. They'll continuously smash their large mouths against each other until one gives up, presumably after catching feelings.


So next time you're picking up trash on the ocean floor of California, keep an eye out for the colorful fish with the insecure masculinity issues!

So what do you think? Is it DOPE? Or a NOPE?

Do you agree on the outcome of the Duck Death Match? Comment with your thoughts!!!


  • percomorph-the largest order of teleost fishes comprising typically small or moderate-sized more or less streamlined or fusiform fishes with the ventral fin possessing not more than one spine and five rays and the first dorsal fin always spinose, being divided into several suborders, and including the perches, basses, gobies, mackerels, blennies, and numerous related forms.

  • cirri-a slender tendril or hairlike filament, such as the appendage of a barnacle, the barbel of a fish, or the intromittent organ of an earthworm.

  • Neoclinus blanchardi (Sarcastic fringehead). (n.d.). Animal Diversity Web.

  • Pilcher, H. (n.d.). Sarcastic fringehead: The fish that fights with a kiss. Https://Www.Sciencefocus.Com.

  • Spencer, E. (n.d.). Meet the Sarcastic Fringehead. Ocean Conservancy.

  • Neoclinus blanchardi (Sarcastic fringehead). (n.d.-b). Animal Diversity Web.


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