News / Species Spotlight / Dracula Shrimpgoby (Stonogobius dracula) (05/08/18)

Dracula Shrimpgoby (Stonogobius dracula)

Species Spotlight - Dracula Shrimpgoby (Stonogobius dracula)
The origins of this fishs supernatural sobriquet is quite the tale to tell. The year is 1972, and the late taxonomist Roger Lubbock is enjoying a pleasant dive in the Seychelles, busily exploring and collecting the fishes in a lagoon some 20 meters deep. Down on the sand he spots a small, red-banded fish hovering something he hadnt seen before. He swoops down with a net and captures the wee beast, and its in this moment that ichthyological history is made. This brave goby, longing for nothing more than the comforts of its home, a home it was only moments ago taken away from, summoned forth all of its courage and mounted a stunning counterattack. As the mighty hand of Lubbock descended upon it, the goby struck. THWACK!

A torrent of blood began to flow forth from the mangled finger of the taxonomist, two tiny punctures oozing forth his carmine ichor. He had been bested, though the goby, despite a valiant effort, did not win the day. Our poor piscine protagonist would never again rest its weary fins against the burrow it so loved. Never again would it feel the gentle caress of the caridean companion it had come to know so well over the years. Aye, let us commemorate this, the very first Stonogobiops dracula.

So, yeah, this species has a couple fanglike vomerine teeth, in case you missed the brilliant literary allusion. A fish worthy of Bram Stoker is what Lubbock was going for with that name.

This was actually the first of the Stonogobiops shrimpgobies to be described, which is somewhat remarkable when one considers how ubiquitous and inexpensive these are within the aquarium trade these days. But prior to scuba diving, there was simply no easy way to acquire a tiny, reclusive goby that generally lives beyond the depths reachable by freedives.

Aside from the type locality in the Seychelles, this fish is only known from the Maldives and Sri Lanka, from whence aquarium specimens are procured. It might be expected to occur elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, perhaps either along the African coastline or the Andaman Sea, though its actually rather strange that it hasnt been encountered there yet. If, on the other hand, this species truly is endemic to just these two island groups, that would be quite unprecedented in the annals of fishdom.

Photographs from the wild show this goby to have what might best be called an infatuation with Randalls Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli). No other species has yet to be observed with it, and this seems rather fitting. Roger Lubbock was a student of famed ichthyologist John Randall, for which this shrimp is named, so it only seems fitting that these two creatures should be the best of aquatic friends.

Stonogobiops are arguably the ultimate in aquarium shrimpgoby. Their manner of hovering near the opening of their burrow is considerably more charming than that of their sluggish and slothful relatives, Cryptocentrus and Amblyeleotris, which simply rest upon their lazy, lazy fins. Its possible to pair this goby up, though it requires a bit of luck to get a mixed-sex couple (there arent any obvious morphological differences to look for). For that matter, the shrimps can be paired up as well. The result is something akin to the 90s sitcom Full House, sans Comet and Kimmy Gibbler, of course.