Neoclinus blanchardiSarcastic fringehead

Geographic Range

Sarcastic fringeheads can be found along the Pacific Coast from San Francisco, California to central Baja California, Mexico (Eschmeyer 1983).


Sarcastic fringeheads are found in a demersal, marine environment (Williams 2000). They occupy depths ranging from three to sixty-one meters. (Gotshall 1989). Fringeheads can be found in a subtropical climate typically around 38* C (Williams 2000).

More specifically, sarcastic fringeheads can be found along the exposed coast of the Pacific Ocean. At times, they can be seen on the sand or the mud bottom below low tide (Williams 2000) Typically, they occupy empty shells, abandoned holes and crevices ("PBS: Sea Dwellers" 2000). In some areas they even take up residence in old cans and bottles. In fact, in the "beer bottle field" of Santa Monica Bay, nearly every bottle is a home to a fringehead ("A Learning Link to the Aquarium of the Pacific" 2000).

Physical Description

Sarcastic fringeheads are the largest of all fringeheads (Eschmeyer 1983). They can grow to be 30.0 cm in length (Williams 2000). They possess the clinid family characteristics of a long dorsal fin, as well as wavy, fringe-like cirri on their heads ("PBS: Sea Dwellers" 2000). They are specifically known for their extremely large mouths. This is due, in part, to their characteristically long maxillary that extends nearly to the back edge of the gill cover (Gotshall 1989).

The bodies of the sarcastic fringeheads are long, slender and compressed. They possess unbranched pectoral fin rays (CALCOFI 1996). In addition, the dorsal fins extend continuously from the head to the base of the tail fin. Further, the anal fin extends from vent to the base of the tail fin (Barnhart 1936).

Fringeheads are generally brownish-gray and typically mottled with either red or green patches ("A Learning Link to the Aquarium of the Pacific" 2000). The dorsal spines possess two ocelli, one between the first and second spines, and the other between the fifth and ninth spines (Gotshall 1989). These ocelli are generally blue and outlined by a yellow ring ("A Learning Link to the Aquarium of the Pacific" 2000).


Sarcastic fringeheads generally spawn from January to August. They are oviparous creatures. The female lays her eggs in what is usually an abandoned burrow. It is then the task of the male to guard the nest that is attached to the wall of the shelter (CALCOFI 1996).

The eggs are typically 0.9 to 1.5 mm in diameter. Each egg has an oil globule component as well as filaments by which they are attached both to the nest itself as well as to the other eggs (CALCOFI 1996).


As suggested by their name, sarcastic fringeheads are extremely temperamental. They are fiercely territorial creatures that aggressively protect their homes from all intruders, regardless of size. The majority of the time, sarcastic fringeheads are at rest in their homes -- only their heads protrude. However, upon the first sign of danger, they will employ their enormous mouths and needlelike teeth for defense. Initially, they emit only a warning accomplished by the flexing and snapping of their jaws. If the intruder ignores the warning, they will use their ferocious teeth to attack ("A Learning Link to the Aquarium of the Pacific" 2000).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Sarcastic fringeheads are omnivores. They consume roughly 13.6 times their body weight per year (Williams 2000).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

With the exception of attacking humans that intrude into their space, sarcastic fringeheads are considered harmless (Williams 2000).

Conservation Status


William Fink (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Jennie Southern (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


uses touch to communicate


July 18, 2000. A Learning Link to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Los Angeles Times: E8.

"PBS Sea Dwellers: Sarcastic Fringeheads" (On-line). Accessed October 20, 2000 at

Barnhart, P. 1936. Marine Fishes of Southern California. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation (CALCOFI), 1996. The Early Stages of Fishes in the California Current Region. Lawrence, California: Allen Press Inc.

Eschmeyer, W., O. Herald, H. Hammann, J. Gnagy. 1983. A Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Gotshall, D. 1989. Pacific Coast Inshore Fishes. Monterey, California: Sea Challengers.

Williams, J. "Species Summary for Neoclinus blanchardi" (On-line). Accessed October 27, 2000 at