Istigobius murdyi, The First Sandgoby From Mesophotic Reefs

by | Jun 17, 2018 | Fish | 0 comments

Istigobius murdyi, live holotype, MZB 24601, 27.6 mm SL female, Misool, West Papua, Indonesia. Credit: Mark Erdmann / Hoese & Erdmann 2018

is a small genus of mid-sized and rather drably colored gobies whose ten known species can be found scattered across the Indo-Pacific. They are most often found on shallow sand and silt bottoms, often in association with brackish estuaries, but this isn’t the case for a new species described in the latest edition of the Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation.

Murdy’s Sandgoby (Istigobius murdyi) was first spotted in 2007 from trawls taken at the Rowley Shoals off the northwest coast of Australia at a depth range of 80-100 meters. This is considerably deeper than anything previously known for the genus (most species of which are found in the uppermost 20 meters); however, these initial specimens were too badly damaged from the trawling to be used to scientifically describe it. This would have to wait until new specimens were hand-collected by Conservation International’s Mark Erdmann, who stumbled upon a couple individuals in the Raja Ampat Islands of Indonesia, at 64-70 meters.

Like its shallow-water cousins, Istigobius murdyi favors open, sandy habitats, where its attractive pattern of blue and gold spots helps it to blend in against the bottom. Aside from being the first mesophotic member of the group, this is also by far the smallest species, clocking in at just over an inch in length. For comparison, the only species seen with any regularity in the aquarium trade is the Decorated Sandgoby (I. decoratus) which is typically around five times this size!

Murdy’s Sandgoby is named for ichthyologist Dr. Ed Murdy, who has worked extensively with gobies, describing 10 species. He also coauthored the most recent revision of this genus in 1985, along with fellow gobyologist Dr. Doug Hoese. Each of these researchers now has their own species of sandgoby. Istigobius hoesei was named by Murdy in 1982, and now Hoese has returned the favor by naming Istigobius murdyi. Clearly, nomenclatural cronyism is alive and well with gobies.

Istigobius murdyi, live paratype, WAM P.33686-001, 29.7 mm SL, Misool, West Papua, Indonesia. Credit: Mark Erdmann / Hoese & Erdmann 2018


  • Hoese, D.F. & Erdmann, M.V. (2018) Description of a new species of Istigobius (Teleostei: Gobiidae) from Australia and Indonesia. Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation, 30, 70–77.
  • Joe Rowlett

    Joe is classically trained in the zoological arts and sciences, with a particular focus on the esoterica of invertebrate taxonomy and evolution. He’s written for several aquarium publications and for many years lorded over the marinelife at Chicago’s venerable Old Town Aquarium. He currently studies prairie insect ecology at the Field Museum of Natural History and fish phylogenetics at the University of Chicago.

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