Variable Snake Blenny, Ophiclinus ningulus George & Springer 1980

Other Names: Distinctiveless Snakeblenny, Featureless Snake Blenny, Variable Snakeblenny, Variable Snake-blenny

A Variable Snake Blenny, Ophiclinus ningulus, at Port Hughes, South Australia, 01 March 2014 . Source: Robert Paton / Atlas of Living Australia. License: CC By Attribution

A mottled yellowish-brown to very dark brown snake blenny with a series of indistinct brown and white patches along the back, indistinct brown and white lines radiating from eyes, pale vertical fins with fairly evenly spaced darker blotches along the fin length. Darker individuals are uniformly brown with a white stripe from the tip of the snout, along top of head and base of front portion of dorsal fin, dark brown fins with a white to purple patch on the front of the dorsal fin and a narrow white posterior margin (caudal and anal fins with clear margins), and the basal part of the pectoral fins brown with large white spots dorsally and ventrally, and a clear outer portion.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Ophiclinus ningulus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

Variable Snake Blenny, Ophiclinus ningulus George & Springer 1980

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia from Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, and northern Tasmania, to Cockburn Sound, Western Australia. Inhabits macro-algal covered reefs and sponge areas, often sheltering under rocks, in depths to 20 m.


Dorsal fin XLIV-LXVI, 1. Anal fin II, 28-30; Caudal fin 13; Pectoral fin 11-12; Pelvic fin I, 2.  
Body shallow (12-18% SL), very elongate, compressed, gradually tapering to shallow caudal peduncle. Head small (20-23% SL); eyes small (20-24% HL); tube of anterior nostrils without fleshy flap at tip; mouth small (upper jaw length 31-36% HL), nearly horizontal, maxillae reaching just beyond centre of eyes; teeth conical, moderately large, band at front of each jaw, single row laterally; roof of mouth with curved row of teeth. 
Scales tiny, cycloid, not overlapping; lateral line not associated with scales, consisting of 12-15 pores originating above each opercle, followed by series of pit like depressions; front pore in series of pores running down and forward on each cheek unpaired. 
Single long-based dorsal and anal fins of fairly uniform heights, both broadly joined by membranes to caudal fin, dorsal arising above rear of opercles, membrane between anal fin rays distinctly notched at edge; caudal fin rounded. Pectoral fins of moderate size, much longer than eye diameter. Pelvic fins much longer than eye diameter, arising slightly in front of and below pectoral fin bases.   


To 6.5 cm SL.  


Variably yellowish-brown to very dark brown, paler individuals somewhat mottled with series of indistinct brown and white patches along upper edge of each side, head with indistinct brown and white lines radiating from eyes; fins pale with darker blotches fairly evenly spaced from front to rear; darker individuals uniformly brown with white stripe from tip of snout, along top of head and base of front portion of dorsal fin; dorsal, anal and caudal fins dark brown, dorsal white to purple anteriorly, with thin white margin posteriorly; caudal and anal with clear margins, basal one-fourth of pectoral fins brown with large white spots dorsally and ventrally, outer portion clear.


Viviparous - live bearer.


Although a number of snakeblennies exhibit some variation in colour pattern, differences between individuals of the Variable Snake Blenny can be quite dramatic. The dark and pale variants appear totally different from each other.


The specific name is from the Latin ningulus (= nobody), in reference to the lack of distinctive characteristics that might otherwise serve as a basis for a specific name.

Species Citation

Ophiclinus ningulus George & Springer 1980, Smithson. Contrib. Zool. 307:  22, fig. 10. Type locality: Lucky Bay, Western Australia, 34°00'S, 122°14'E, depth 10 m.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Variable Snake Blenny, Ophiclinus ningulus George & Springer 1980


George, A. & Springer, V.G. 1980. Revision of the clinid fish tribe Ophiclinini, including five new species, and definition of the family Clinidae. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 307: 1-31 figs 1-14

Hoese, D.F., Gomon, M.F. & Rennis, D.S. 2008. Family Clinidae. pp. 696-722 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds) Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Holleman, W., Williams, J.T. & Clements, K.D. 2014. Ophiclinus ningulus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T178929A1549011. Downloaded on 23 January 2017. 

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2021. Complete list of fishes recorded from the Perth Coast (Mandurah to Two Rocks). pp. 262-273 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds) The Perth coast fish book. Identification guide Mandurah to Two Rocks. Perth : Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

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. 

Rennis, D., Hoese, D.F. & Gomon, M.F. 1994. Family Clinidae. pp. 741-775, figs 650-684B 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.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37414003

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-20 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:7.5 cm TL


Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map