Peacock sea dog is common in the Mediterranean Sea, in the East Atlantic from the coast of France to Morocco, the Bosphorus. In the Black Sea, this species is not numerous and is found only on the stony coast of the Crimea, the Caucasus, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. A peacock dog carries desalinated water. Usually it is found at a shallow depth (mainly 30-50 cm) among stones and pebbles. The peacock sea dog is a territorial fish, it constantly keeps on its small site. These fish move serpentine, wriggling with their whole body.
The body length of a peacock dog reaches 11–13 cm, with males usually larger than females. Her body is bare, spindle-shaped, covered with a layer of thick mucus. The color of the males is brighter than the females. In the upper part of the body, it is yellow-greenish, with 6-7 vertical stripes of bluish color and light blue dots on the sides and lines above. Behind the eye there is a blackish spot, which is surrounded by a bluish rim and a ring of the same color. The profile of the head is rounded in front, the males have a yellowish crest, with a transverse dark green stripe, extending from the dorsal fin to the eyes in the form of a convex arc. The dorsal and anal fin is greenish in color, with a lighter, brownish or bluish border. There are small spikes on the fins. The dorsal fin is long, formed by flexible spines and soft rays. The caudal fin is separated from the dorsal. Anal fin long. The ventral fins have a spine hidden in the skin. The pectoral fins practically reach the beginning of the anal fin, in young ones, extending further. The teeth of the peacock dog are weak, mainly located in the same row as a comb, 26–32 teeth in the upper jaw, and 19-24 teeth in the lower. These fish feed on bottom invertebrates, preferring mollusks, as well as crustaceans, other fish eggs, algae, and organic debris.
The breeding season of the peacock dog falls on May - July. Males make a nest under stones or in cracks and indentations; often they use empty mussel and oyster shells several females lay eggs at once. The male protects the eggs. After about two weeks at night or early in the morning, hatching of pelagic larvae 5-6 mm long occurs. They are almost transparent, almost immediately after hatching, they are carried away by the current into the open sea, then their development proceeds without the help of their parents.
The body of the peacock dog is flexible, elongated, squeezed laterally. The head is quite massive, with a large mouth, fleshy lips, puffy cheeks and bulging eyes, resembling the head of a bulldog. In the mouth there are two rows of sharp teeth, supplemented by four large bent fangs. The fold above the upper lip, combined with an enlarged throat and a convex forehead, gives the “face” of the dog an arrogantly surprised expression. She does not have a swimming bladder, like scales, and her body is covered with a layer of mucus. A long dorsal fin stretches from above the nape to the end of the caudal stem, half of which are prickly and flexible, and half are soft. The caudal fin is rounded. From the end of the short abdomen to the tail is the anal fin. Small spiky ventral fins lie almost on the throat. The pectoral fins located after them have the appearance of massive fan-shaped paws. In general, the fish is a mini-copy of its cousin, the northern catfish.
The color of the dog is very variable and depends on the area of habitat, the nature and color of the soil. The overall color changes from olive gray, tan and green to pink red. 6-8 vertical dark double stripes, contoured by thin turquoise-white lines and passing to the dorsal fin, go along the body. Between the stripes and closer to the tail, the same turquoise-white dots are scattered. An oblique black stripe passes through the eye, masking the pupil, and a little further to the back of the head is a false eye of two dark rings. The dorsal and caudal fins are often highlighted in red.
Dogs - sea bottom fish that live in coastal areas with a rocky or shell bottom and aquatic vegetation. Their distribution zone is shallow areas (usually 0.5-1 m) of the Black, Mediterranean Seas and the European subtropical Atlantic. You can watch the life of the dogs practically without soaking your feet - adult fish love a stone, climb on it and sit on top with an important look, spending this way almost all day, or scour between stones for food.
Usually they prefer small crustaceans: amphipods, water donkeys, shrimps, small crabs, but they do not refuse the opportunity to pinch filamentous algae, eat a worm or other eggs. Noticing the impudent, encroaching on their chosen stone, the dogs militantly gouge the fins with spines and rush into battle, as in the children's game "King of the Hill". If, within sight, someone else found something edible, they run there and tear prey from each other's mouth, like real dogs. Thick mucus allows them to be out of the water for a long time. Being washed ashore by a storm or carried away by the pursuit of a small crab, dogs easily return to their environment, wriggling like a snake or jumping, pushing off the ground by pectoral fins, like paws. When you are caught in a fishing rod or trying to grab them with your hand, they twist and strive like a dog, it hurts to clutch a finger.
DOG WITH HORNS
In 1.5-2 years, the fish are ready for breeding. The "grooms" on the head grows a hump helmet, which, like a moose’s antler, serves as a sign of masculinity. In addition, they acquire two fleshy lobes at the beginning of the anal fin, which helps with spawning. The “brides” noticeably swell the abdomen. The color of the couple becomes brighter, the turquoise stripes light up like a neon sign, and the males begin to sparkle like peacocks, for which these fish got their name.
Weddings take place portionwise from May to July. In the mating season, the male builds a nest from large shells of bivalve mollusks under stones, in cracks and crevices of rocks, or digs a mink in dense sand with his mouth. Then, with dances, he lures a female ready for spawning, crawls into a nest and begins to wave his head intensely and bow, inviting the charmer inside. If she does not agree, he jumps out and pushes her there by force. Having performed the wedding ceremony, a satisfied boyfriend escorts the little wife and begins to lure another. This continues until the dwelling is filled with several thousand weakly sticky yellowish eggs 1.2-1.3 mm in size, with white specks characteristic of peacock dogs.
For 15-20 days, the male takes the house under guard: cleans and ventilates the caviar with fins and drives away those who wish to feast on it, attacking even their own reflection in the presented mirror. At the same time, he does not stop eating, reinforced by the most annoying thieves - amphipods, water donkeys and shrimps. Seeing such passions, the hatched youth immediately flees from the nest and begins an independent life in the water column, feeding on small phyto- and zooplankton, as well as filamentous algae. After spawning, females eat “dietary salads” of diatoms, purplish and green algae.