The lovely Tiger Sandgoby, a newly described species, is a significant find. Species with restricted distributions and habitats, such as the Tiger Sandgoby enable us to measure changes in biodiversity and aid management of our ever changing coastlines.

Tiger Sandgoby, Nesogobius tigrinus
Tiger Sandgoby, Nesogobius tigrinus males. Image is taken in an aquarium which has been set up during the Kangaroo Island collecting expedition, 2008. Image: Michael Hammer
© Michael Hammer

The gobies, classified in the family Gobiidae, form one of the most diverse fish families in the world. Often small and behaviourally cryptic, there are many new species being discovered and more yet to be named. The Tiger Sandgoby belongs to a group of gobies from the genus Nesogobius, all of which are only found in temperate waters of southern Australia. There are two things which I find really interesting about this new species, its look and location. Firstly it is a beautiful little fish, being small and delicate and growing to an average of about 3cm length with iridescent markings and speckling. Its name tigrinus is latin for banded. As is often the case in the animal world, male Tiger Sandgobies are more adorned than the females. It is thought that the males use their dark dorsal fin to signal and attract a female and possibly ward off unwanted visitors.

As for its location, surprisingly after extensive searching along the South Australian coastline it has only been found in sheltered embayments of northeast Kangaroo Island. It appears to live in a subtidal microhabitats with slightly murky water that is muddy and sandy with broken shells and sparse seagrass.

The Tiger Sandgoby can be distinguished from other species of Nesogobius by its colouration including four prominent vertical black bars on males, large body scales, no head scales, slender body and wide gill openings plus a lack of second dorsal and anal fin spines.

The discovery of the Tiger Sandgoby is important due to its endemism and habitat preference. With additional research and monitoring it will be a key indicator in the health of the coastal ecosystem of Kangaroo Island. The discovery was a joint project between the Australian Museum (Doug Hoese), the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (Michael Hammer) and the South Australian Museum (Terry Bertozzi).

Additionally, Dr Doug Hoese is in the process of describing more new goby species from the temperate waters of Australia. With numerous factors affecting our coastal marine environment, now more than ever it is gravely important we understand our local biodiversity so we can better manage and conserve it. The Tiger Sandgoby is a small fish but it may have a big impact in helping us understand and monitor the region.

Amanda Hay (Technical Officer)

More information:

  • Hammer, M. Hoese, D.F. and T. Bertozzi. 2015. A new species of Near-shore Marine Goby (Pisces: Gobiidae: Nesogobius) from Kangaroo Island, Australia Zootaxa. 4057 (3): 371-384.