BIOTIC Species Information for Pomatoschistus minutus
Researched byKaren Riley Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byDr Angus Jackson
Scientific namePomatoschistus minutus Common nameSand goby
MCS CodeZG479 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumChordata SubphylumVertebrata
SuperclassGnathostomata ClassOsteichthyes
SubclassTeleostei OrderPerciformes
Suborder FamilyGobiidae
GenusPomatoschistus Speciesminutus

Additional InformationPomatoschistus minutus is a very abundant fish which is present along all British and Irish coasts. Its distribution extends from the eastern Atlantic (Tromso, Norway) to the Mediterranean and to areas of the Baltic Sea. Pomatoschistus minutus is a spawning and thermal migratory species. It is usually found on sandy or muddy bottoms to a depth of about 20 m, but may occur up to 60-70 m depths.

Pomatoschistus minutus is sometimes considered to form a species complex with Pomatoschistus norvegicus and Pomatoschistus lozanoi. Pomatoschistus lozanoi is morphologically intermediate between the other forms and may interbreed with them in the wild (Webb, 1980). However, evidence suggests that back-crossing of the resultant hybrids does not occur and Pomatoschistus lozanoi is genetically distinct from the other forms (Webb, 1980).

Taxonomy References Howson & Picton, 1997, Fish & Fish, 1996, Hayward et al., 1996, Campbell, 1994, Froese & Pauly, 2000(e), Webb, 1980,
General Biology
Growth formPisciform
Feeding methodPredator
Environmental positionDemersal
Typical food typesSmall polychaetes, cumaceans, amphipods and mysids. HabitFree living
Bioturbator FlexibilityHigh (>45 degrees)
FragilityIntermediate SizeSmall-medium(3-10cm)
Height Growth RateInsufficient information
Adult dispersal potential1km-10km DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional Information
  • The sand goby usually remains inactive, except when feeding (Fonds & Veldhuis, 1973). Pomatoschistus minutus feeds on small polychaetes, cumaceans, amphipods and mysids. Depending on the bottom type, it has been noted to show colour adaptations (Aquascope, 2000b), and has also been noted to burrow into the sediment to avoid predators (Magnhagen & Forsgren, 1991).
  • The sand goby is a small goby, reaching a maximum of 10 cm in length. Males are generally longer than females (Quignard et al., 1983). Growth is slower in winter in the Atlantic, and slower in the summer in the Mediterranean (Quignard et al., 1983). Larvae gradually spend more and more time on the bottom, and at a length of approximately 17-18 mm they are usually fully adapted to the benthic way of life.
  • Although of no commercial importance itself, it is incidentally caught in abundance in French Mediterranean lagoons (Quignard et al., 1983).
Biology References Quignard et al., 1983, Aquascope, 2000, Froese & Pauly, 2000(a), Miller, 1986, Fonds & Veldhuis, 1973, Magnhagen & Forsgren, 1991,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandThe sand goby is abundant along all British and Irish coasts.
Global distributionIts distribution extends from the eastern Atlantic (Tromso, Norway) to the Mediterranean and areas of the Baltic Sea.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth rangeUp to 20 m (sometimes up to 60-70 m)
MigratorySee additional information   
Distribution Additional Information
  • The sand goby is considered to be an abundant species, found along all coasts of the British Isles. It can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and salinities, shown by its distribution from Norway and the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean, and the fact that it resides in brackish and fully saline waters. It is usually found in deeper waters and at higher salinities than Pomatoschistus microps.
  • Fonds (1973) showed that adult sand gobies tolerate salinities between 0.9 psu and 45 psu and that they survived and remained in good condition at a temperature as low as 2 °C. However, in the Thames estuary they preferred high salinity and high suspended solids concentrations (Araújo et al., 2000).
  • Pomatoschistus minutus is a migratory species of semi-enclosed lagoon-like environments (Pampoulie et al., 1999). It has been noted to undertake spawning migrations in the Mediterranean Sea (Bouchereau et al., 1989) and thermal migrations in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea (Fonds, 1973; Hesthagen, 1977). Thermal migrations occur when temperatures decrease below 4-5 °C (Fonds, 1973) or increase above 19 °C (Hesthagen, 1977). In the Thames estuary an increase in numbers has been noted during autumn and winter (Araújo et al., 2000). In the Severn estuary, however, goby numbers declined in winter. This was suspected to have reflected a movement away from the shallows and towards deeper, warmer water (Claridge et al., 1985). Healey (1971) observed a scarcity of sand gobies in the Ythan estuary from February to June and, after eliminating decreased temperature, a change in salinity or a change in food supply as a cause, suggested that it was a result of a seasonal migration. Healey (1971) hypothesized that the gobies migrated out to sea so that eggs could develop, however, the hypothesis was subsequently rejected.

Substratum preferencesCoarse clean sand
Fine clean sand
Sandy mud
Muddy sand
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Isolated saline water (Lagoon)
Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zoneSublittoral Fringe
Upper Infralittoral
Lower Infralittoral
Wave exposureExposed
Moderately Exposed
Tidal stream strength/Water flowInsufficient information
SalinityFull (30-40 psu)
Variable (18-40 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional Information
Distribution References Fish & Fish, 1996, Hayward et al., 1996, Campbell, 1994, Fonds, 1973, Hesthagen, 1977, Araújo et al., 2000, Claridge et al., 1985, Miller, 1986, Pampoulie et al., 1999, Bouchereau et al., 1989, Healey, 1971, Eno et al., 1997, Bruce et al., 1963, Geffen et al., 1998,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeGonochoristic
Developmental mechanismOviparous
Reproductive SeasonFebruary to May Reproductive LocationBrood chamber / Pouch
Reproductive frequencyAnnual protracted Regeneration potential No
Life span1-2 years Age at reproductive maturity<1 year
Generation time1-2 years FecundityInsufficient information
Egg/propagule sizeUp to ca 5000 eggs Fertilization typeInsufficient information
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potential>10km Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stage2-10 days   
Reproduction Preferences Additional Information
  • The sand goby becomes sexually mature at about 7 months to a year old (Miller, 1986; Bouchereau et al., 1990). At this time, individuals measure approximately 4 cm (Bouchereau et al., 1990). Reproduction involves repeat spawning between February and May in Britain, and March to July in the Baltic Sea (Miller, 1986). The female usually lays her eggs under empty bivalve shells and the male proceeds to guard them. Males care for approximately 2 egg batches at the same time, belonging to different females (Kvarnemo, 1994), and females respawn with an interval of about 1 to 2 weeks (Kvarnemo, 1998). Fecundity is reported as between 2,878 - 3,000 eggs by Miller (1986) and between 998 and 5100 by Bouchereau et al. (1990).
  • Pomatoschistus minutus spawns at 8 to 15 °C, lower than that of the Pomatoschistus microps (Wiederholm, 1987). In the Atlantic reproduction is protracted (Bouchereau & Guelorget, 1998; Rogers, 1989) and in the Mediterranean it is contracted (Bouchereau & Guelorget, 1998).
  • The lifespan of the sand goby is approximately 1.3 to 2 years (Miller, 1986). Quignard et al. (1983) recorded lifespans of the sand goby as 12 to 14 months in the Mediterranean and up to 22 months in the Atlantic.
Reproduction References Kvarnemo, 1998, Kvarnemo, 1994, Bouchereau & Guelorget, 1998, Quignard et al., 1983, Aquascope, 2000, Bouchereau et al., 1990, Miller, 1986, Rogers, 1989, Wiederholm, 1987,
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