Pygmy Shore Eel, Alabes parvula (McCulloch 1909)

Other Names: Eel Clingfish, Pygmy Shore-eel

A male Pygmy Shore Eel, Alabes parvula, at Tathra, New South Wales, October 2018. Source: Nick Shaw / License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial

A semitransparent greenish, brownish or purplish shore eel with the internal organs usually clearly visible, a row of brownish or greenish blotches along the dorsal fin, sometimes a dark internal midlateral stripe, and a spotted or unspotted head. Males are more colourful with a pattern of regular reddish to brownish tiger-like bars along the side that do not merge with a series of 3-4 blackish to dark blue blotches or bars on the orange abdomen.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Alabes parvula in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2024,

Pygmy Shore Eel, Alabes parvula (McCulloch 1909)

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Endemic to southeastern Australia, from Point Cartwright, southern Queensland, to Flinders Island, South Australia, including coastal Tasmania. Inhabits seagrass beds and adjacent reef areas (including rockpools) in depths to 10 metres.


Caudal fin 4-6; Vertebrae (total) 63-74.
Body very elongate, moderately compressed; head very short; eyes small; mouth small; teeth small; gill opening a small slit on underside of head, its width less than eye diameter; lchrymal pores present; single sensory pore dorso-posterior to each eye. Dorsal, anal and caudal fins continuous, dorsal and anal elongate, without fin rays; pectoral and pelvic fins absent. Head of females more pointed anteriorly than that of the male.


Body completely transparent with internal organs usually clearly visible; a row of brownish or greenish blotches on dorsal fin; head spotted or unspotted, male usually with a tiger-like pattern of reddish to brownish bars anteriorly along side, continued on body in larger individuals, and not merging ventrally with a longitudinal series of 4 blackish to dark blue blotches or bars on the side of the abdomen, area of blotches extending about halfway between gill slit and urogenital opening.


Springer & Fraser (1976) considered the Pygmy Shore Eel to occur in Western Australia and Norfolk Island. However, these forms represent the Western Shore Eel, Alabes occidentalis, in Western Australia, and Springer's Pygmy Shore Eel, Alabes springeri, in Norfolk Island.

Similar Species

The Pygmy Shore Eel is very similar to the Dwarf Shore Eel, Alabes hoesei. The two species can only reliably be separated based on the number of post-ocular pores (= cephalic lateral line canal pores behind the eye), with Alabes parvula having a single pore, and A. hoesei having two pores. 


The specific name is from the Latin parvulus (= very small) in reference to the small size of this species.

Species Citation

Cheilobranchus parvulus McCulloch, 1909, Rec. Aust. Mus. 8(4):  316. Type locality: Freshwater Bay, Manly, Sydney, New South Wales.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Pygmy Shore Eel, Alabes parvula (McCulloch 1909)


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, (in part, distribution includes WA and Norfolk Island, which represent records of A. occidentalis and A. springeri respectively)

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

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

McCulloch, A.R. 1909. Studies in Australian fishes, No. 2. Records of the Australian Museum 7(4): 315-321 fig. 18 pls 90-91

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. & Carpenter, K.E. 2016. Alabes parvula (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T67903537A115447324. Downloaded on 19 February 2019.

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  (in part, includes material from WA and Norfolk Island, which represent records of A. occidentalis and A. springeri respectively)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37206010

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-10 m

Habitat:Reef associated, weedy/seagrass areas

Max Size:4.7 cm TL


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