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Tubenose Goby "Leaps" to Duluth/Superior

tubenose goby

Tubenose Goby

The bottom-hugging Gobiidae family, which is over 1,800 species strong throughout the world, has another representative lurking in the Duluth Superior Harbor. A tubenose goby (Proterorhinus marmoratus) was caught in a U.S. Geological Survey trawl in April 2001 and another was seined from the water later in September by Wisconsin fisheries biologists, making the species' first documented leap significantly beyond its entry point into the U.S., the St. Clair River. It is the tenth exotic fish and second goby species documented in the Twin Ports.

"It's significant, but not surprising, that the tubenose goby was caught here," said Doug Jensen, Exotic Species Information Center coordinator for Minnesota Sea Grant. "Given the frequency of interlake shipping traffic and vast quantities of ballast water transported from other Great Lakes ports, we anticipated that they would travel beyond the St. Clair River. Actually, we expected that they would spread more like the round goby; that they would be here earlier and inhabit parts of the other Great Lakes by now."

The two rogue goby species made their North American debut in the St. Clair River, in 1990. Tubenose goby populations remained localized and small, spreading no farther than the Detroit River and Western Lake Erie. Meanwhile, round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) colonized parts of all of the Great Lakes within eight years. Round gobies were caught in the Duluth Superior Harbor for the first time in 1995 and are now abundant.

"If there is good news, it's that tubenose gobies have small mouths so anglers probably won't see them on the end of a fishing line," said Jensen. "We don't know if they have colonized the harbor or what the consequences of their arrival might be."

Tubenose gobies are still considered rare in the St. Clair River. Ironically, because of habitat destruction, the tubenose goby is endangered in parts of its native range around the Black and Caspian seas of Eurasia. Like the zebra mussel, Eurasian ruffe, and spiny waterflea, round and tubenose gobies are thought to have crossed the Atlantic in the ballast tanks of transoceanic ships.

"Don't be surprised if you see more," said David Jude, a goby biologist with the University of Michigan who identified the invasive gobies along with colleagues about 12 years ago. "When I caught the tubenose goby in the St. Clair River, my initial response was, 'Oh, there's only one here.' Then I found thriving populations of round gobies and more tubenose."

Tubenose gobies are generally smaller than round gobies (less than 110 mm or 4 in.) and their nostrils extend beyond the smooth curve of their face. Individuals live about five years and tend to spawn on vegetation. Aquatic insects are their main prey but they also eat round goby fry (which means if they become established in the Duluth Superior Harbor, they'll have plenty to eat). Unlike the round goby, they don't dine on zebra mussels.

"Since tubenose gobies lay eggs on vegetation, it is important to remove plants from boats and trailers after being in the Duluth Superior Harbor and the St. Louis River," said Jensen. "Besides, zebra mussels could be attached to the aquatic plants. The tubenose goby makes it even more important for people to check their boats, motors, and trailers before leaving accesses."

The tubenose goby joins a list of ten other non-native species of fish that have been collected from the harbor:

Alewife
American eel
Common carp
Eurasian ruffe
Goldfish
Rainbow smelt
Round goby
Sea lamprey
Threespine stickleback
White perch


By Sharon Moen
March 2002

Return to March 2002 Seiche



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