What is a Sarcastic Fringehead? Can you guess?

The Sarcastic Fringehead

That is the question. So, just what IS a sarcastic fringehead? Is it a saucy brat with big hair? Or some smart-alecky whippersnapper with a fringed hat, knit by grandma? Of course not. I write about animals, remember? Got a clue? Well …

THIS is a Sarcastic Fringehead

What is a Sarcastic Fringehead? Can you guess?

Whoa! Right?

What is it?

The Sarcastic FringeheadNeoclinus blanchardi, is a small, but mighty, ferocious fish.  This fish is extremely  territorial and will put up an aggressive fight to maintain its domain.  When two sarcastic fringeheads have a territorial battle, they wrestle by pressing their distended mouths against each other, each trying to push the other one away. The one who wins, which is usually the larger fish, establishes dominance. End of story.

The scaleless sarcastic fringehead can grow up to about 12 inches (30 cm) long, but most only reach 3-8 inches (7.6-29 cm).  They hide inside anything they can find in the ocean. It could be an empty shell, inside crevices, and even dumped bottles or cans that humans so thoughtlessly throw into our oceans! They’re not fussy about their home, but they’ll fight for the privilege of having it. The image below is one living inside some sort of plastic tubing.

What is a Sarcastic Fringehead? Can you guess?

Sarcastic fringeheads are long, lean, and lanky. Their long dorsal fin extends from the rear of the head almost to the rounded caudal fin. The head is quite large, rounded snouts and prominent lips. The huge jaw extends back well past the eye and is larger in males than females. (Huh!)  These fish have sharp, needle-like teeth and have a fringe-like appendages over their eyes, called cirri. Hence the name.

Check out this 3 minute video from David Attenborough’s BBC Life series, Episode 4.

A fish and an octopus! I say thumbs up for the octupus! He sure stood up for himself and didn’t back down. But he did run away the moment he got the chance! I can’t say I blame him.


t’s interesting to note that to enter their shelter, they back into it, instead of entering it head-first, perhaps because they can’t turn around inside such close quarters.

** Ocean: A Photicular Book **

Their coloring is usually gray or brown, sometimes with a red tinge and green or pale blotches. Males can be almost black with the rear side of their huge jaw a bright yellow. Usually there are pale spots or patches on the cheeks. The ocelli (eye-like spots) on the spinous dorsal fin of males are metallic blue, surrounded by a golden ring.

Sarcastic fringeheads are believed to live to about 6 years.

What is a Sarcastic Fringehead? Can you guess?

Where do they live?

They are found in the Pacific, off the coast of North America, from San Francisco, California, to central Baja California at a depth in the range of from 9.8 to 239.5 feet (3 to 73 meters). That’s quite a range, actually.

Here’s another really short (2 min) sarcastic fringehead video. You see they’re not very neighborly.  Isn’t that wild? So cool! 🙄

Sarcastic Fringeheads usually reproduce from January to August. A female deposits about 3,000 tiny eggs in clam burrows or under rocks. The eggs, only 0.035-0.06 in (0.9-1.5 mm) in diameter, are closely guarded by the male. The hatching are about 0.12 in (3.0 mm) long.

How do they fight?

These fish appear to have no fear, willing to attack any intruder that dares to come within their sight. They lay in wait, and attack at the right moment, surprising their opponent with their fierceness.

Aquarium of the Pacific describes their attack this way:

With only a bizarre-appearing head protruding from the shelter, an enormous mouth, and needle-like teeth, they are ready to aggressively defend their territory against all intruders. They are known to attack almost anything (including divers)that appears anywhere within their range of vision. They show who’s boss with an intimidating, animated threat display complete with body and head flexing, spreading gill covers, and snapping jaws. If the threat does not solve the problem, it is usually followed by a vicious, gaping-mouth attack on the intruder and a hot pursuit.

What is a Sarcastic Fringehead? Can you guess?

What is their status?

Most likely due to the fact that this little fish can pretty much take care of itself, they are not included on the IUCN Red List.

Why are they “Sarcastic?”

Etymology: from French sarcasme or Latin sarcasmos, both meaning “sarcasm,” from Greek sarkasmos “sarcasm,” from sarkazein “to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer,” from sark-, sarx “flesh”

Sounds about right.

SOURCES:  Aquarium of the Pacific  ♦  Arkive.org  ♦  Wikipedia

What is a Sarcastic Fringehead? Can you guess? #Ocean Share on X


Jeanne Melanson
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13 thoughts on “What is a Sarcastic Fringehead? Can you guess?”

  1. What an awesome fish! I never heard of it before. I bet this would even be enough to impress my 17 year old son, but I won’t hold my breath. Lol. He’s about as sarcastic as this fish too!

  2. Wow – started off looking so cute and innocent but watch out when hungry or angry! Thank you for another wonderfully interesting post 🙂

    • It’s a wild-looking things, isn’t it? Ferocious! You don’t want to get tangled up with that creatures. I appreciate you taking the time to read the article, Marie. All the best! 🙂

  3. Wow, that is one crazy fish! I have never even heard of one of those before. Thanks for teaching us all a little lesson on one of the many (I am sure!) creatures out there that we don’t even know existed. 🙂


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