Common dragonet (Callionymus lyra)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Callionymus lyra is the largest (up to 30 cm) and most common dragonet in UK waters. Small specimens could be confused with gobies. However, the broader and triangular head distinguishes it, together with a longer snout and jutting lower jaw. Mature males have elongate dorsal and caudal fin rays, the second dorsal being yellowish with bright blue longitudinal stripes and bright blue marks on the head and body. Females and immature males are brown and lighter ventrally with a series of 6 brown blotches along the sides. Three symmetrical brown saddles are present along the back with indistinct darker stripes lengthwise on the second dorsal fin. Females are usually up to 20 cm long and males up to 30 cm. This species can blend perfectly with coarse sand or gravel substrata. The fins are often folded down when the fish is on the sea bed.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widespread all along the coasts of Britain and Ireland.

Global distribution

East Atlantic, Southern Iceland, Central Norway south to Mauritania including the Northern Mediterannean, western Black Sea, Azores, Madeira and Canaries, Gibralter and Algeria.


Demersal, found in the sublittoral to depths of 430 m. More usually at depths of 5 to 50 m. Mainly a temperate species in waters 16-20 °C. Callionymus lyra lives on the sea bed, often partially buried in sand or shell gravel.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Flattened body without scales.
  • Triangular head when viewed from above.
  • Eyes on top of head.
  • Two dorsal fins, the first one triangular, tall and sail-like.
  • Colourful males with long first ray in first dorsal fin.
  • Sharp spines on pre-operculum.
  • Second dorsal and anal fin membrane with bright blue horizontal lines.
  • Usually 9 rays in second dorsal fin.

Additional information

Dragonets are small fish of shallow inshore waters. They are demersal and often found partially buried in sand or shell gravel. Adaptations to this mode of life include the dorsally situated gill opening and the flattened body shape. The diet of Callionymus lyra consists mainly of polychaete worms, amphipod crustaceans and molluscs, especially cockles.

Listed by

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  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-38

  3. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

  4. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  5. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre, 2017. Fish: Records for Kent.. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  6. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Biological survey of the intertidal chalk reefs between Folkestone Warren and Kingsdown, Kent 2009-2011. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  7. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  8. Lancashire Environment Record Network, 2018. LERN Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  9. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  10. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  11. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  12. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-06-15

  13. Outer Hebrides Biological Recording, 2018. Vertebrates (except birds, INNS and restricted records), Outer Hebrides. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  14. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Fish (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.

  15. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, 2018. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Shoresearch. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Oakley, J.A. 2008. Callionymus lyra Common dragonet. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 15-06-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008