Sarcastic Fringehead
Neoclinus blanchardi

Physical Description

  • Long, slender body with long back fin from head almost to tail fin
  • Dull-brown with white square splotches
  • Large head with blunt, rounded snout and prominent lips
  • Open mouth up to four times the size of its closed size. Mouth opens into diamond shape, red and yellow edges, blue inner lining and needle-like teeth
  • Buggy eyes and fringe-like appendages on head (hence their name)
  • 9 to 12 inches long


  • San Francisco, California to Baja California, Mexico


  • Rocky reefs and nearby soft bottoms
  • Live in burrows, narrow tubes of burrowing clams, in snail shells, and in marine debris (like empty bottles and cans)
  • From depths of 10-240 feet


  • Seen eating squid eggs
  • Not well known what they eat in the wild, but thought that their large mouths hinder eating


Interesting Facts

  • Male sarcastic fringeheads compete with each other for females and territory by opening their very large mouths at each other. They attack each other, getting so near each other that the mouths can even touch. 
  • Extremely aggressive and fearless, they will charge anything that comes near their burrows, even divers

Sources: Oceana; ScienceAlert; Aquarium of the Pacific

Photo: Kevin Lee

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