Elizabeth Springs goby
Common name: Elizabeth Springs goby
Scientific name: Chlamydogobius micropterus
Legislative name: Chlamydogobius sp. A
Conservation status: The Elizabeth Springs goby is listed as Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is considered a critical priority for conservation under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Back on Track species prioritisation framework.
The Elizabeth Springs goby is a small freshwater fish, about the size of a small goldfish (60 mm long). Males have a greyish-olive back, lighter sides and a cream to white belly. Mature males become golden olive. The first dorsal (back) fin is grey with a gold yellow edge and an iridescent blue spot towards the tail. The remaining fins and tail are blue grey with a whitish blue margin. Female colour is unknown.
Habitat and distribution
Elizabeth Springs gobies are only found in Elizabeth Springs, which is a ‘spring complex' 1 in western Queensland protected within the Elizabeth Springs Conservation Park. Within the spring complex there are about 40 spring wetlands in an area of about 1500 m by 400 m, which are fed by the Great Artesian Basin. The springs range from dry or non-flowing mounds with little or no vegetation, to well-vegetated springs with open water
The Elizabeth Springs goby only occurs in some of the larger springs where the water depth is greater than 100 mm. Regular monitoring has observed gobies in as few as 5 spring pools to as many as 14 spring pools, and indicates that gobies disperse between springs during times of flooding or heavy rainfall.
Life history and behaviour
Elizabeth Spring gobies shelter in emergent vegetation (vegetation that sits above the water level) during daylight. At night they have been observed some distance from cover, and were probably foraging. The long, coiled intestine of the goby suggests that it eats mostly algae. However, captive populations have been observed eating small planktonic crustaceans.
Spawning (egg laying) usually occurs at night at temperatures above 20°C, and lasts about one hour. The male selects a site, often beneath a rock, and attempts to attract females by extending his fins and making jerky swimming movements. After spawning, the male is left to guard approximately 40-100 eggs (each between 2.5-3.0 mm long), which are attached to the ceiling of the cave. Hatching commences after 9-10 days and newly hatched larvae are 5-6mm long.
The Elizabeth Springs goby is threatened by a decline in the rate of water flowing out of the Elizabeth Springs. This flow rate is about 70 per cent less than what it was over 100 years ago. This decline is probably due to the artificial extraction of groundwater through bores, in western Queensland and elsewhere, to provide water for people and stock. The capping of bores may result in enhanced spring flows and expansion of spring wetland habitat within the Great Artesian Basin, which may result in the expansion of goby habitat at Elizabeth Springs. Grazing and trampling of spring wetlands by people, stray cattle, and feral pigs and goats threatens the goby by polluting and destroying the pools in which it lives. There is also the potential for feral fish to be transported to the site (through flooding events), and out-compete Elizabeth Springs goby.
- The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is installing and maintaining fences around Elizabeth Springs to reduce trampling by cattle, and to install interpretive signage.
- Support a national program aimed at protecting Elizabeth Springs water flow rate through controlling the flow of artesian bores and capping free flowing bores.
- Control feral pigs in the area around Elizabeth Springs Conservation Park.
- Monitor the Elizabeth Springs goby and their habitat, and control any invasions of feral fish. Anyone can help prevent further spread of exotic pest fish by never releasing these species into natural waterways and by reporting sightings to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 2012. Chlamydogbius micropterus Elizabeth Springs Goby. Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra.
Fairfax RJ and Fensham RJ. 2003. Great Artesian Basin springs in southern Queensland 1911-2000. Memoirs of the Queensland. Museum 49: 285-93.
Fensham RJ, Ponder WF and Fairfax RJ. 2010. Recovery plan for the community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin. Report to Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Brisbane.
1. In Queensland, a 'spring complex' is considered a group of springs where neighbouring pairs of springs are not more than 6km apart and all occur on similar landforms (Fensham & Fairfax 2003).