BARNEY THE IMAGE-CONSCIOUS BALLAN WRASSE

Bristol Aquarium has discovered its very own nautical Narcissus in the shape of a fish which appears to have fallen in love with its own reflection.

The native ballan wrasse has taken to spending long periods of time staring in to a mirrored porthole in his shipwreck-themed display at the Harbourside attraction.

Of the 300 species of wrasse, most are tropical or sub-tropical. Only seven are found in north European waters. The ballan wrasse is the best known species in British waters.

Although found in UK waters, the ballan wrasse, which can reach lengths in excess of 60 centimetres, is renowned for its bright colours and attractive markings.

Bristol Aquarium’s David Waines said: “It’s not something I have ever come across before but it’s undeniable that he does seem to be genuinely fascinated with looking at himself in the mirror.

“We’re not entirely sure why Barney has become quite so besotted with his own reflection. It may be that he thinks it’s actually a rival male and he is trying to defend his territory but we can’t be certain, maybe he just likes what he sees!” he added.

Ballan wrasse have powerful jaws to crush crustaceans and other shell fish. They pick over the rocks in search of their food. The fish has a special tooth in the back of its throat, shaped like a cross, that is used to crush up their food as it passes down to their stomachs.

This was sometimes carried by sailors as a good luck charm against drowning.

For centuries naturalists could not understand why all small ballan wrasse were females and all the older, larger specimens were males.

It was only relatively recently discovered that all ballan wrasses are born female and will remain that way for anything up to their first eight years before a few then change into males.

Wrasse grow very slowly but are relatively long-lived with some males reaching 30 years in age.

Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information and to arrange picture/ filming opportunities please contact David Waines or Dan de Castro on 0117 929 8929.