Common Shore Eel, Alabes dorsalis (Richardson 1845)

Other Names: Common Shore-eel, Red-banded Shore Eel, Shore Eel, Striped Brown Shore Eel

A Common Shore Eel, Alabes dorsalis, at Flinders in Westernport, Victoria, August 2018. Source: Nick Shaw / Atlas of Living Australia. License: CC BY Attribution

A large brownish-orange to bright green shore eel, with or without large blackish to green spots along the midside. The Common Shore Eel is often seen by people turning over rocks and shells along the seashore in Victoria and Tasmania.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Alabes dorsalis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

Common Shore Eel, Alabes dorsalis (Richardson 1845)

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia, from Broken Bay, New South Wales, to Great Francis Island, Great Australian Bight, South Australia, including around  Tasmania.
Usually shelters under rocks and shells from the intertidal region to a depth of about 10 m.


Caudal fin 7-8; Pelvic fin 3; Vertebrae (total) 66-78.
Body very elongate, relatively robust, moderately compressed (depth 9.3–11.6 in SL); head very short; eyes small; mouth small; gill opening a small slit on underside of head, its length equal to or greater than eye diameter; single post-ocular sensory pore dorso-posterior to eye; dorsal, anal and caudal fins continuous, elongate, without fin rays, dorsal fin relatively high, continued anteriorly as a prominent fin fold to area above urogenital opening (snout to origin of dorsal fin 2.0–3.5 in SL); pelvic fins rudimentary, positioned immediately behind gill opening, width equal to or greater than length of gill slit.


Large blackish circular blotches often present along the midside of large adults.


Seen more often than other shore eel species due to its relatively large size and intertidal habitat. 
Although eel-like in shape, the Common Shore Eel is a member of the clingfish family - the Gobiesocidae.

Similar Species

The similar Elongate Shore Eel, Alabes elongata, has a more slender body, lower fins, and a different colouration.  


The specific name is from the Latin dorsalis (= of, or pertaining to the back).

Species Citation

Cheilobranchus dorsalis Richardson, 1845, Voy. Erebus and Terror: 50. Type locality: north-west coast of Australia (Tasmania?)


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Common Shore Eel, Alabes dorsalis (Richardson 1845)


Hutchins, J.B. 1994. Family Gobiesocidae. pp. 305-324, figs 269-289 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds) The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Hutchins, B. 2006. Description of two new species of shore-eels (Gobiesocidae: Cheilobranchinae: Alabes) from south-eastern Australia and Norfolk Island. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 63(1): 25-28,

Hutchins, J.B. 2008. Family Gobiesocidae. pp. 722-741 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds) Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Hutchins, B. & Morrison, S. 2004. Five new fish species of the genus Alabes (Gobiesocidae: Cheilobranchinae). Records of the Australian Museum 56: 147-158

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. & Kuiter, S.L. 2018. Fish watchers guide to coastal sea-fishes of south-eastern Australia. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics, 371 pp.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

Macleay, W.J. 1881. Descriptive catalogue of the fishes of Australia. Part 4. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 6(2): 202-387 (described as Chilobranchus rufus) See ref at BHL

Richardson, J. 1845. Ichthyology. 17-52 pls 7-8 (parts), 11-30 in Richardson, J. & Gray, J.E. (eds). The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror under the Command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S., during the years 1839–43. London : E.W. Janson Vol. 2 139 pp. (described as Cheilobranchus dorsalisCheilobranchus aptenodytum) See ref online

Springer, V.G. & Fraser, T.H. 1976. Synonymy of the fish families Cheilobranchidae (=Alabetidae) and Gobiesocidae, with descriptions of two new species of Alabes. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 234: 1-23 figs 1-14

Vaillant, L.L. 1905. Description de poissons nouveaux ou imparfaitement connus de la collection du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle. Le genre Alabes de Cuvier. Nouvelles Archives du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle. Paris 4 7(1): 145-152 (described as Alabes cuvieri)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37206008

Depth:0-10 m

Habitat:Inshore under rocks, shells

Max Size:12 cm TL


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CAAB distribution map