information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Shanny (Lipophrys pholis)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



The shanny has a smooth, elongated body, and measures up to 16 cm in length. Its colouration varies with surrounding habitat from dark brown or blotched to blackish, with a dark spot behind the first dorsal fin. The blennies in general have an elongated body with a large, blunt head, fairly large eyes, and small tentacles on the head. The shanny has similar characteristics to other blennies, although it has no head tentacles and its eyes are set high up on its head. Older animals develop a fleshy ridge on their forehead.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Very common around the coasts of Britain and Ireland.

Global distribution



Most commonly found on the shore in rockpools, or hiding under damp stones and seaweed, from where it emerges at high tide to forage over the shore. An adaptable species, it is also often found around man-made structures such as pier pilings.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Indistinct dark red spot between the first and second rays of the dorsal fin.
  • The skin is slimy and without scales.
  • No tentacles on the head.
  • Single, long dorsal fin, split by a notch into unequal sections.

Additional information

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Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  2. FishBase, 2000. FishBase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2001-05-03

  3. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  4. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  6. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  7. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  8. Wheeler, A., 1969. The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe. London: Macmillan.


This review can be cited as:

Mayhew, E.M. 2008. Lipophrys pholis Shanny. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 15-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 29/04/2008