Arrow goby (South Sound marine life)

May 5, 2007 

Arrow goby (Clevelandia ios)

This 3-inch fish is interesting in a variety of ways. For example, while scientific names often tell a lot about the animal or plant, in this case, that’s only partly the case. First of all, “Clevelandia” doesn’t mean this fish lives in Cleveland. In fact, it is a common inhabitant of marine and estuarine sheltered beaches on the West Coast. Instead, the name recognizes a former president — not of the United States but of the San Diego Society of Natural History. However, the species name, “ios” — the greek word for arrow — reflects its long, skinny appearance.

Another interesting feature is the arrow goby’s ability to tolerate a wide range of temperature and salinity conditions, allowing it to mainly live in the intertidal zone. When the tide goes out, the fish seeks refuge in the water-filled burrows of mud or ghost shrimp. When the tide is in, it also seeks refuge in the burrows when frightened.

Even with such an unusual hiding spot, these small fish find their way into many types of bellies, such as those of terns, kingfishers and great blue herons, staghorn sculpins, whitespot greenlings and rockfish.

The adults are busy during high tide eating a variety of items such as diatoms, small green algae, small crustaceans and eggs, and the young of ghost or mud shrimp. Biologists have seen them place food too large for them to swallow in front of crabs, then wait for scraps to come their way.

Reproduction occurs in spring with nonfloating eggs widely distributed over the surface of the beach. The eggs hatch in 10 to 12 days, producing larvae that drift with the plankton while eating floating eggs, cope pods and barnacle larvae.

David W. Jamison is a Boston Harbor resident and marine biologist

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