Calling all blenny lovers! We need your help tracking the range expansion of the Chameleon Blenny (also known as Warthead Blenny) in the Tropical Western Atlantic.
In May 2020, a sighting of the Chameleon Blenny (Protemblemaria punctata) in Tampa Bay was reported to REEF by Sara Brehm, an Environmental Specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves. Since the summer of 2019, at least 10 Chamelon Blennies have been sighted in this area. Prior to this, one individual had been reported in Tampa Bay area in 2017 (USGS NAS). This species is endemic to the Caribbean coast of Venezuela, but also has been reported in the southwest Gulf of Mexico near Veracruz.
The Chameleon Blenny colonizes abandoned worm tubes and may be expanding its range by hitchhiking on oil and gas platforms. The species has already been documented at a few sites in the Gulf of Mexico and may be widespread throughout the area. The Chameleon Blenny's range expansion could impact ecosystem function and displace native blenny and goby species with similar prey types and habitats. More information is needed to determine how established these populations are, and their potential effects on reef systems.
As a REEF member, you can help us track this species. If you think you have seen a Chameleon Blenny, please submit a report to the REEF Exotic Species Sightings Form, preferably with a photo. If you were doing a REEF survey when you saw it, be sure to also report it on your survey.
Chameleon Blennies are found in shallow water with sandy bottoms down to a depth of 60 feet. This fish can reach a maximum size of two inches. They can be identified by deeply forked cirri, wedge-shaped markings around the iris and a small ocellated spot (black or translucent) on the foredorsal fin. They may be olive green to dark gray in color, with greenish bars on their body and cheeks. Mating individuals have orange-red fading to yellow with orange spots on rear body. They are generally unafraid of divers.