Sabertooth Blenny, Plagiotremus azaleus
The Sabertooth Blenny, Plagiotremus azaleus, whose Spanish common name is diente sable, is a species in the family Blenniidae, the Combtooth Blennies, known as borrachos in Mexico. Globally, there are ten species in the genus Plagiotremus, of which one is found in Mexican waters, this one in the Pacific.
The Sabertooth Blenny has a very elongated slender body. They have a broad brown midlateral band that runs from the snout, through the eye, to the caudal fin mid-body with a narrow off-white stripe immediately above. The dorsal fin is black with a blue-white outer margin. Ventrally they are off-white. The head of the Sabertooth Blenny has a long conical protruding snout with a small inferior mouth that has a large canine tooth projecting from the front of each side of the lower jaw that are used for protection. The anal fin base is low and long and has two spines and twenty seven to thirty rays and has four equally spaced black spots along its base; the caudal in is concave with a long filament in the center; and, the dorsal fin is low with a long base with twelve to fourteen spines and thirty one to thirty five rays and is continuous originatiing before the small gill openings. They do not have a lateral line. Their skin is smooth without scales.
The Sabertooth Blenny is a non-migratory coastal resident that are found demersal in very shallow water weed-covered intertidal and subtidal rocky areas including tidal pools at depths up to 85 feet. They reach a maximum length of 10.2 cm (4.0 inches). They are highly territorial and will vigorously defend their territories against intruders. They are known to habitat empty tube-worm shells, and to extend their heads from the opening. They leave their shelter and are diurnal. They feed by relying on mimicry where they become darker in color and join schools of Cortez Rainbow Wrasse at levels of less than one per hundred for disguise to obtain potential access to prey fishes and to avoid predation or they hunt in packs of up to 100 individuals and attack larger fish such as Dog Snapper and Leopard Grouper. They primarily consume the skin of larger fish and eggs. Reproduction is oviparous in distinct pairs with the female depositing eggs in protected areas that are sticky and adhere to the walls of the parent’s shelter which are then fertilized by the males who then guards them for two to three weeks until they hatch. They are present in all Mexican waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the extreme northern portions of the Sea of Cortez. They are a small, shallow-water species with limited information about their behavioral patterns.
The Sabertooth Blenny are a fairly easy species to identify and cannot be easily confused with any other species due to their unique coloration patterns and large sable like tooth.
The Sabertooth Blenny is too small to be of interest to most and normally a “catch-and-release.” They are known to nip at divers but overall are considered to be harmless to humans.