In the shallowest water, where it is impossible to swim, we find the ‘Blenniidae Kingdom’. So who, in fact, is king of the first ten centimeters? If you ask me then, without a doubt, this is the cutest of all fish, the bright ruler who learned to live right on the sea shore. With good sight, and commanding his entire kingdom, he has found
a sophisticated way to cling to the rocks while most of the other creatures are swept away by the waves.
If you asked someone more knowledgeable than me about blennies, you would probably hear about a large family of over 300 species, all scaleless, with two thorns in their dorsal fins. All of this is apparently very interesting, but that is not why I lay on my stomach for hours in very shallow water in the Gulf of Eilat, entirely captivated by the beauty of this small fish. Primarily it is the small protuberances over the eyes that look like eyelashes. These are to be found just above the intelligent eyes that stare me with awareness, examine me and trust me. They decide that I probably do not constitute any danger. The fish allows me to come close, and remains two inches away from the camera, allowing me to snap a royal portrait. When the tide begins to rise, the blennies invisibly harvest algae and appear to be very engrossed in this work. There are types of Blenny that leave the water altogether, above the waves. They can do this by using the water that remains on their skin, which keeps them from dehydrating in the hot sun.
There, above all of the dangers lurking in the underwater world, the blennies and other creatures – such as crabs, shrimps, snails and limpets – feel safe.
If you put your feet into this warm and friendly water we will find them nibbling our feet while our little friends display interest close-up: sea bream, a silvery fish that competes with the rabbit fish for the best areas of algae. Crabs are uncertain where it is safest for them – above or below the water: sometimes they compromise and sit with each half of their body in a different ecosystem.
Now that the dangers of being in the water have been dealt with, it is possible to concentrate on dangers from the air, such as sea birds whose shadow alone freezes the little ones into kind of sleep . . .. . They all freeze and wait for the bird to choose its victims; or has evolution taught the fish and crabs that birds do not excel at catching prey that doesn’t move? Whether this is the result of intelligence or fear – it works well, together with a little camouflage and matching colors, the little creatures seem to manage just fine.
Giving it some deeper thought, perhaps the behavior we are observing is the first hesitant step of marine creatures getting used to life on dry land. Is this possibly a picture of our evolution from marine creatures into terrestrial organisms, just as we are now able to return to the ocean, equipped with cameras. Are we looking at our past? Or could we be looking into our future??
Aviv Levi – Scientific Director of the Underwater Observatory Park