|Researched by||Karen Riley||Refereed by||Dr Angus Jackson|
|Other common names||-||Synonyms||-|
The sand goby is a small goby, reaching a maximum of 10 cm in length. It has a slender body and the head is about a quarter of the total length. It is pale brown or grey in colour with darker markings on the sides. The underside is creamy-white in colour. Males often have a prominent dark blue spot on the rear of the first dorsal fin.
Pomatoschistus 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).
|Phylum||Chordata||Sea squirts, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals|
|Class||Actinopterygii||Ray-finned fish, e.g. sturgeon, eels, fin fish, gobies, blennies, and seahorses|
|Typical abundance||High density|
|Male size range||up to 10cm|
|Male size at maturity||4cm|
|Female size range||4cm|
|Female size at maturity|
|Growth rate||No information found|
|Body flexibility||High (greater than 45 degrees)|
|Characteristic feeding method||Predator|
|Typically feeds on||Small polychaetes, cumaceans, amphipods and mysids.|
|Is the species harmful?||No|
|Physiographic preferences||Open coast, Estuary, Isolated saline water (Lagoon), Enclosed coast / Embayment|
|Biological zone preferences||Lower infralittoral, Sublittoral fringe, Upper infralittoral|
|Substratum / habitat preferences||Coarse clean sand, Fine clean sand, Mixed, Mud, Muddy sand, Sandy mud|
|Tidal strength preferences|
|Wave exposure preferences||Exposed, Moderately exposed, Sheltered|
|Salinity preferences||Full (30-40 psu), Variable (18-40 psu)|
|Depth range||Up to 20 m (sometimes up to 60-70 m)|
|Other preferences||No text entered|
|Migration Pattern||Seasonal (environment), Seasonal (reproduction)|
|Reproductive type||Gonochoristic (dioecious)|
|Reproductive frequency||Annual protracted|
|Fecundity (number of eggs)||1,000-10,000|
|Generation time||1-2 years|
|Age at maturity||7 months to a year old|
|Season||February - July|
|Life span||1-2 years|
|Duration of larval stage||2-10 days|
|Larval dispersal potential||Greater than 10 km|
|Larval settlement period||Insufficient information|
The MarLIN sensitivity assessment approach used below has been superseded by the MarESA (Marine Evidence-based Sensitivity Assessment) approach (see menu). The MarLIN approach was used for assessments from 1999-2010. The MarESA approach reflects the recent conservation imperatives and terminology and is used for sensitivity assessments from 2014 onwards.
|Adult Pomatoschistus minutus live on inshore sandy and muddy substrata in open coastal areas, whereas juveniles are found in lower estuaries. The sand goby has been noted to show colour adaptations, depending on the bottom type (Aquascope, 2000), and has also been noted to burrow into the sediment when under attack (Magnhagen & Forsgren, 1991). Their substratum is therefore important to them for the purpose of protection. Loss of substrata may cause a proportion of the species to die. However, adults are sufficiently mobile and will be able to recolonize areas which contain suitable substrata. A low intolerance to substratum loss is recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Pomatoschistus minutus will not be affected by smothering as they are mobile and able to swim away. However, destruction of habitat is important. Cordone & Kelley (1961) reported that (in a freshwater habitat) deposition of sediment on the bottom of the substratum would destroy needed shelter, reduce the availability of food, impair growth and lower the survival rate of eggs and larvae of fish. It is likely that, due to the ability of adult Pomatoschistus minutus to burrow into the sediment, they will only be slightly intolerant of smothering. However, if smothering occurred during the breeding season destruction of broods of eggs is possible. Materials such as concrete, oil or tar are likely to have a greater negative impact on the population. An intermediate intolerance to smothering has been recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Low|
|Moore (1977) indicated that an increase in siltation can have a negative effect on the growth of adult fish, survival of eggs and larvae and pathological effects on gill epithelia. However, bottom-dwelling species are generally found to be tolerant of suspended solids and juveniles have been reported as being more intolerant of siltation than adults (Moore, 1977). Araújo et al. (2000) found that Pomatoschistus minutus was preferentially found in areas of high suspended sediment in the Thames estuary. On balance, tolerant has been suggested with a low confidence.|
|Pomatoschistus minutus is found in inshore coastal waters. The animal is soft-bodied, so stranding of the individual, and subsequent exposure to sunshine and air for an hour would more than likely result in a proportion of the population dying. This event, however, is unlikely to occur as the sand goby is sufficiently mobile to avoid this situation and can burrow into the sediment to survive low water levels. In an experiment designed to investigate the ecological importance of the sand goby, Jaquet & Raffaelli (1989) set up cages on an intertidal mudflat in the Ythan estuary. They reported that the gobies were apparently unaffected by the presence or absence of water and that many of the fish were entirely buried at the sediment surface. Intolerance to desiccation has therefore been assessed as low. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Moderate|
|It is unlikely that Pomatoschistus minutus would be affected by a change in the emergence regime as it is sufficiently mobile to avoid its effects.|
|Low||Very high||Very Low||Low|
|It is unlikely that the sand goby could withstand a large increase in water flow rate, as this would decrease its ability to feed, migrate and reproduce. However, it is sufficiently mobile to avoid effects and so intolerance is assessed as low.|
|The geographical distribution of Pomatoschistus minutus extends from the north-eastern Atlantic (Tromso, Norway) to the Mediterranean and areas of the Baltic Sea. Pomatoschistus minutus populations in southern waters are therefore exposed to warmer waters, and those in northern waters are exposed to colder waters. Long term increases in temperature due to climate warming would be unlikely to have an effect on the population. |
As temperature is important in determining the distribution of the sand goby (e.g. winter migration), Wiederholm, (1987) suggested that a cold summer may reduce the population density and a series of cold years may wipe out the northernmost population. During the severe winter of 1962-63 there was heavy mortality of observed populations of Gobius paganellus, Gobius minutus and Gobius flavens (Crisp (ed.), 1964). Therefore a decrease in temperature may affect populations in the British Isles, by either shifting the geographical distribution further southwards towards warmer waters, or killing a proportion of the northern-most population.
Furthermore, temperature could also have an effect on the time and duration of the breeding season. For example, Pomatoschistus minutus spawns at 8 to 15 °C. Therefore, temperatures outside this range would decrease the ability of the species to spawn, and also decrease the hatching success rate of their eggs. Sensitivity to a temperature increase is recorded as low, whereas a decrease in temperature is likely to cause a proportion of the population to die and is therefore recorded as intermediate. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).
|Pomatoschistus minutus does not depend on algae as a food source, but depends on other food sources (such as Crustacea and polychaetes). These would still be readily available. The minimum light intensity needed for the detection and recognition of food are of great importance in many species of fish (Kinne, 1970). For instance if the organism needs to spend more time foraging for food, its energy expenditure will increase and could possibly lead to growth and reproductive problems. In highly turbid waters fish larvae have been noted to show a greater than normal mortality. It is probable that Pomatoschistus minutus would be intolerant of changes in turbidity on a large scale, but probably not with changes of approximately 50 mg/l over a month. Therefore, a low intolerance to changes in turbidity has been recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Not relevant|
|The sand goby is sufficiently mobile to move away from the area undergoing changes in wave exposure, therefore it is assigned a low intolerance. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|No information||No information||No information||No information|
|Fish generally forage for food using visual methods and can detect differing levels of light and shade. It is therefore probable that Pomatoschistus minutus can also detect these changes and would be slightly affected by activity on the shore, more so in the breeding season. However, periods of time when activity might be reduced due to hiding would most likely be slight. Intolerance to visual presence is assessed as low. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Not relevant||Not relevant||Not relevant||Not relevant|
|Pomatoschistus minutus is sufficiently mobile to avoid abrasive contact. Therefore it is unlikely to suffer from abrasion.|
|It is unlikely that Pomatoschistus minutus would be affected by displacement, as it is sufficiently mobile to recolonize other areas. However, if displacement occurs during the breeding season negative effects on the species could be noted. Furthermore, if a male that is protecting fertilized eggs is displaced, the eggs are not likely to survive. Therefore, a low intolerance has been recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Lindane is likely to bioaccumulate significantly and is considered to be highly toxic to fish (Cole et al., 1999). Ebere & Akintonwa (1992) conducted experiments on the toxicity of various pesticides to Gobius sp. They found Lindane and Diazinon to be very toxic, with 96 hr LC50s of 0.25 µg/l and 0.04 µg/l respectively. TBT is very toxic to algae and fish. However, toxicity of TBT is highly variable with 96-hr LC50 ranging from 1.5 to 36 µg/l, with larval stages being more sensitive than adults (Cole et al., 1999). PCBs are highly persistent in the water column and sediments, have the potential to bioaccumulate significantly and can be very toxic to marine invertebrates. However their toxicity to fish is not clear (Cole et al., 1999). Therefore, an Intermediate intolerance has been recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Cadmium, mercury, lead, zinc and copper are highly persistent, have the potential to bioaccumulate significantly and are all considered to be very toxic to fish (Cole et al., 1999). Mueller (1979) found that in Pomatoschistus sp., very low concentrations of cadmium, copper and lead (0.5 g/l Cd2+; 5 g/l Cu2+; 20 g/l Pb2+) brought about changes in activity and an obstruction to the gill epithelia by mucus.|
Inorganic mercury concentrations as low as 30 µg/l (96-h LC50) are considered to be toxic to fish, whereas organic mercury concentrations are more toxic to marine organisms (World Health Organisation, 1989, 1991). Oertzen et al. (1988) found that the toxicity of the organic mercury complex exceeded that of HgCl2 by a factor of 30 for Pomatoschistus microps. As Pomatoschistus microps and Pomatoschistus minutus are similar in their distribution and morphology (Wiederholm, 1987) it is probable that Pomatoschistus minutus would react in the same way. Therefore, a high intolerance to heavy metals has been recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).
|Toxicity of low molecular weight poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) to organisms in the water column is moderate (Cole et al., 1999). They have the potential to accumulate in sediments and, depending on individual PAH, to be toxic to sediment dwellers at levels between 6 and 150 µg/l (Cole et al., 1999). The toxicity of oil and petrochemicals to fish ranges from moderate to high (Cole et al., 1999).
Berge et al. (1983) performed an experiment on the effects of the water soluble fraction (WSF) of North Sea crude oil on sand gobies. They found that after 1 to 2 days exposure to WSF crude oil at a concentration of 0.1 to 1.0 ppm, there was increased mortality and decrease in normal nocturnal behaviour. After 6 days exposure, a 50 % survival was noted. Berge et al. (1983) also noted that, after restoration of clean sea water normal activity resumed and mortality gradually became less, although some fish still died.|
Bowling et al. (1983) found that anthracene, a PAH, had a photo-induced toxicity to the bluegill sunfish. In fact, Bowling et al. (1983) reported that when exposed to sunlight, anthracene was at least 400 times more toxic than when no sunlight was present. According to Ankley et al. (1997) only a subset of PAH's are phototoxic (fluranthene, anthracene, pyrene etc.). Effects of these compounds are destruction of gill epithelia, erosion of skin layers, hypoxia and asphyxiation (Bowling et al., 1983). It is possible that Pomatoschistus minutus could be similarly intolerant of hydrocarbons, however this is not known. An intermediate intolerance to hydrocarbons has been recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).
|Kinne (1984) reported that for the marine goby, Chasmichthys glosus, doses of as little as 100 rad (type not known) produced a readily observable response, causing severe damage to gonads of both males and females. The testes showed slightly greater intolerance. It is probable that Pomatoschistus minutus would respond similarly to sublethal irradiation at levels indicated above. An intermediate intolerance to radionuclides has been recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Low|
|An increase or decrease in nutrient levels is not likely to exert an effect on the sand goby.|
|Fonds (1973) found that the sand goby could tolerate salinities between 0.9 and 45 psu. Healey (1971) investigated survival of eggs at various salinities at a temperature of 11-13 °C. He found that they survived best at salinities between 10 and 25 psu, and poorly at 0 and 35 psu. Healey (1971) also found poor survival of sand goby eggs at 0.5 psu. The sand goby is therefore able to survive in a wide range of salinities, and its intolerance is recorded as low. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|A drastic short term decrease in oxygen levels would be expected to have a slight negative impact on the population. Peterson & Peterson (1990) found that the sand goby became restless at oxygen levels below 40 %. It was not known if the increased activity was due to respiratory stress or through adaptation to lower oxygen saturation. Where deoxygenation occurs as a result of thermal isolation of enclosed waters or decay following a plankton bloom, sand gobies would be expected to swim away from the affected area. Intolerance to oxygenation is assessed as low. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Podocotyle atomon (Digenea) was noted to have a very high infestation rate in Pomatoschistus minutus (Zander et al., 1993). Neoechinorhynchus Rutili (Acanthocephala), Hysterothylacium sp. (Nematoda), and Bothriocephalus scorpii (Cestoda) were also noted by Zander et al. (1993) to infest the sand goby, in the SW Baltic Sea. Although no information was found about specific effects of these parasites on the sand goby, it is likely that it will cause a reduction in its fitness. High parasite levels have very little effect on Pomatoschistus microps (T. Matthews, pers. comm. to A. Jackson). Therefore, a low intolerance has been recorded. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Low|
|No alien or non-native species are known to affect Pomatoschistus minutus in Britain and Ireland.|
|Although of no commercial importance itself, the sand goby is incidentally caught in abundance in French Mediterranean lagoons (Quignard et al., 1983). The species is extremely common, and therefore extraction of the species is only likely to have slight effects on the population. Recoverability is likely to be high (see Additional Information section (1) below).|
|Low||Very high||Very Low||Low|
|Pomatoschistus minutus is not known to depend on any other species. Although of no commercial importance itself, it is incidentally caught in abundance in French Mediterranean lagoons (Quignard et al., 1983). Therefore, it is likely to be intolerant of fish trawls for the extraction of other species.|
|Berne Convention||Appendix III|
|Priority Marine Features (Scotland)|
|National (GB) importance||Not rare/scarce||Global red list (IUCN) category||-|
|Origin||-||Date Arrived||Not relevant|
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Aquascope, 2000b. More about the sand goby. [On-line] http://www.vattenkikaren.gu.se/fakta/arter/chordata/teleoste/pomaminu/pomami1e.html, 2001-02-22
Araújo, F.G., Williams, W.P. & Bailey, R.G., 2000. Fish assemblages as indicators of water quality in the middle Thames Estuary, England (1980-1989). Estuaries, 23, 305-317.
Berge, J.A., Johannessen, K.I. & Reiersen, L.O., 1983. Effects of the water soluble fraction of the North Sea crude oil on the swimming activity of the sand goby, Pomatoschistus minutus (Pallas). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 68, 159-167.
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Bowling, J.W., Leversee, G.J., Landrum, P.F. & Giesy, J.P., 1983. Acute mortality of anthracene-contaminated fish exposed to sunlight. Aquatic Toxicology, 3, 79-90.
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Ebere, A.G. & Akintonwa, A., 1992. Acute toxicity of pesticides to Gobius sp., Palaemonetes africanus, and Desmocaris trispimosa. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 49, 588-592.
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Hesgathen, I.H., 1977. Migrations, breeding and growth in Pomatoschistus minutus (Pallas) (Pisces, Gobiidae) in Oslofjorden, Norway. Sarsia, 63, 17-26.
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Mueller, D., 1979. Sublethal and lethal effects of copper, cadmium and lead to organisms representative for the intertidal flats at the outer Elbe Estuary. Archiv fur hydrobiologie, supplement 43 (2-3), 289-346.
Oertzen, J.-A., Wulf, D. & Bruegmann, L., 1988. Ecotoxicological effects of two mercury compounds on Neomysis integer (Leach) and Pomatoschistus microps (Kroyer). Kieler Meeresforschungen Sonderheft, 6, 414-123.
Pampoulie, C., Rosecchi, E. & Bouchereau, J.L., 1999. Life history traits of Pomatoschistus minutus in the Rhone Delta, France. Journal of Fish Biology, 55, 4, 892-896.
Peterson, C.G.J., 1919. On the development of our common gobies (Gobius) from the egg to the adult stages etc. Report of the Danish Biological Station to the Board of Agriculture, 26, 3-16.
Peterson, J.K. & Peterson, G.I., 1990. Tolerance, behaviour and oxygen consumption in the sand goby, Pomatoschistus minutus (Pallas), exposed to hypoxia. Journal of Fish Biology, 37, 921-933.
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Wiederholm, A.M., 1987. Distribution of Pomatoschistus minutus and Pomatoschistus microps (Gobiidae, Pisces) in the Bothnian Sea: importance of salinity and temperature. Memoranda Societatis Pro Fauna and Flora Fennica, 63, 56-62.
Zander, C.D., Strohbach, U. & Groenewold, S., 1993. The importance of gobies (Gobiidae, Teleostei) as hosts and transmitters of parasites in the SW Baltic. Helgolander Meeresuntersuchungen, 47, 81-111.
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Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-01.
Lancashire Environment Record Network, 2018. LERN Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/esxc9a accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.
Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset:https://doi.org/10.15468/aru16v accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.
Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1995 to 1999. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/lo2tge accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.
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OBIS (Ocean Biogeographic Information System), 2022. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2022-10-02
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South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project. Occurance dataset: http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02
This review can be cited as:
Last Updated: 21/08/2007