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Blennies have a lot of fang for such little fishes

Some are venomous, but others are just faking

By
10:00am, May 16, 2017
Meiacanthus grammistes

ON POINT  The two big teeth in the lower jaw of this fang blenny (Meiacanthus grammistes) have a groove for venom delivery.

After a recent flurry of news that fang blennies mix an opioid in their venom, a question lingers: What do they need with fangs anyway? Most eat wimpy stuff that hardly justifies whopper canines.

Not that fang blennies are meek fishes.

“When they bite, they bite savagely,” says Bryan Fry of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. “If these little jobbies were 3 meters long, we’d be having to cage dive with them.” Real-world blennies, however, grow to only about the size of a cocktail sausage.

These little beasts probably got their big teeth before evolving venom, says Nicholas Casewell of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in England. That’s jusssst backward, snakes might say, as they evolved their venom first. Yet when Casewell, Fry and colleagues put together an evolutionary family tree for the blennies, the one genus with both

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