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The Sign Eviota, Eviota sigillata, a tiny coral reef fish, completes its entire life cycle within an eight week period. This species has the shortest lifespan of any vertebrate.

<i>Eviota sigillata</i>

A 15.5mm long Sign Eviota, Eviota sigillata, caught at a depth around 20m, Port de Goro, New Caledonia, September 1991

Image: R. Winterbottom
© R. Winterbottom

In their 2005 paper Martial Depczynski and David Bellwood describe the Sign Eviota’s remarkable life cycle. It spends three weeks in the open ocean as a larva. It then settles on a coral reef and and matures within one to two weeks. Time spent as an adult (11 mm to 20 mm in length) is no more than three and a half weeks.

The age of the species was determined by examination of daily growth rings in the otoliths of 319 specimens. The largest fish had a lifespan of 59 days.

The Sign Eviota occurs in tropical inshore and coral reef waters of the Indo-West and Central Pacific. In Australia it is known from off north-western Western Australia and around the tropical north of the country to northern Queensland.

It has also been called the Coral Reef Pygmy Goby and Seven-figure Pygmy Goby.

Further reading

  1. Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum. Supplement 44: 67–86.
  2. Depczynski, M. & D. Bellwood. 2005. Shortest recorded vertebrate lifespan found in a coral reef fish. Current Biology 15(8): 288-289.
  3. Jewett, S.L. & E.A. Lachner. 1983. Seven new species of the Indo-Pacific genus Eviota (Pisces: Gobiidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 96(4): 780–806.