It is widespread in the Mediterranean Sea and it is a species much sought after by underwater photographers for its very bright colors. Unfortunately, her habit of holing up often makes her an inconspicuous guest, moreover it is a difficult species to film since, although quite curious, she is also very suspicious, tending to flee to her lair at the first sign of danger.
Distribution and habitat It is an endemic species of the Mediterranean sea.
He lives in dark environments such as caves and crevasses. It is difficult to identify in its habitat which abounds with red encrusting organisms, probably because of this and the difficult practicability of its chosen environment that the species is commonly considered rare while in reality it is quite widespread. It is found at greater depth than congenital species, up to 20 meters.
Description Its overall appearance is very similar to congenital species such as L.dalmatinus or L.adriaticus but the livery is absolutely unmistakable since it is vermilion red on the three hind quarters of the body and has the head and the first part of the chest are gray or bluish with numerous black and almost confluent spots. During the breeding period, the adult male has the same yellow and black facial mask typical of the other Lipophrys such as L.canevai or L.adriaticus.
Biology In caves it usually occupies the ceiling by standing upside down. It is a very suspicious species that slips into its lair at the slightest disturbance.
Ichthyologists recognize two subspecies:
- L.nigriceps nigriceps typical of the north coast of the Mediterranean Sea, including all Italian coasts and which has no dark spots on the caudal peduncle.
- L.nigriceps portmahonis which lives in the southern Mediterranean and which instead has a black spot at the base of the caudal fin.
Similar species The chilli pepper (Tripterygion melanurus) has a very similar coloring although it is not at all phylogenetically related and belongs, indeed, to another family. This is probably a case of evolutionary convergence. The two fish are in any case easily distinguishable due to the three dorsal fins with which this species is endowed (L.nigriceps has only one). Curious to note how the Tripterygion is also divided into two subspecies distinguishable on the basis of the absence or presence of a caudal spot. Even the ranges of the two subspecies are largely superimposable to those of the corresponding subspecies of the Lipophrys.