Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Neogobius melanostomus
(round goby)



Neogobius melanostomus (round goby)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Neogobius melanostomus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • round goby
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • N. melanostomus, a small (up to 25 cm length) benthic species of Ponto-Caspian origin, is one of the most successful fish invaders of the recent decades. Since its first recording outside the natural range i.e. i...

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Neogobius melanostomus (round goby); adult. USA.
CaptionNeogobius melanostomus (round goby); adult. USA.
Copyright©Eric Engbretson/US Fish & Wildlife Service/ - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Neogobius melanostomus (round goby); adult. USA.
AdultNeogobius melanostomus (round goby); adult. USA.©Eric Engbretson/US Fish & Wildlife Service/ - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Lateral view of a Round goby from the Gulf of Gdansk, Baltic Sea, Poland.
TitleLateral view
CaptionLateral view of a Round goby from the Gulf of Gdansk, Baltic Sea, Poland.
Copyright©Michal Grabowski
Lateral view of a Round goby from the Gulf of Gdansk, Baltic Sea, Poland.
Lateral viewLateral view of a Round goby from the Gulf of Gdansk, Baltic Sea, Poland.©Michal Grabowski
Close-up of the head of a Round goby.
CaptionClose-up of the head of a Round goby.
Copyright©Michal Grabowski
Close-up of the head of a Round goby.
HeadClose-up of the head of a Round goby.©Michal Grabowski


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Neogobius melanostomus (Pallas, 1814)

Preferred Common Name

  • round goby

Other Scientific Names

  • Apollonia melanostomus (Illin, 1927)
  • Gobius melanostomus (Pallas, 1811)

International Common Names

  • English: black spotted goby
  • Spanish: gobio de boca negra

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: sortmundet kutling
  • Germany: Shwarzmund Grundel
  • Netherlands: zwartbekgrondel
  • Russian Federation: bychok-krugyak
  • Sweden: svartmunnad smörbult

Summary of Invasiveness

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N. melanostomus, a small (up to 25 cm length) benthic species of Ponto-Caspian origin, is one of the most successful fish invaders of the recent decades. Since its first recording outside the natural range i.e. in the Moskva River in the 1980s, the species has inhabited several countries in Europe (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Estonia, the Netherlands) as well as the Great Lakes of North America. The ballast-water transport and possibly as eggs attached to ship hulls and barges are the most probable vectors of N. melanostomus transmission. Other human-mediated factors like alteration of natural freshwater and marine habitats e.g. rip-rap river bank, artificial reefs (wave breakers), industrial harbours, dam reservoirs, seem to promote its establishment in newly invaded areas. N. melanostomus possesses many biological attributes that facilitate its invasion i.e. broad native range, wide tolerance for environmental conditions (euryhaline species), habitat generalist, opportunistic feeder, early maturation, multiple spawning during prolonged breeding season, male care for eggs deposited in shelter, aggressive behaviour. N. melanostomus ability to survive in harsh conditions, also in degraded environments, has helped to increase its competitive advantage compared to native species. The invasion of N. melanostomus resulted in varied alteration of ecosystem processes e.g. the diet shift among predators and changes in food web structure was noted in the Gulf of Gdansk (the Baltic Sea); in the Great Lakes the recruitment failure of some native species and consequently decline of their population coincided with N. melanostomus presence. N. melanostomus is a voracious predator that feeds on variety of invertebrate benthic organisms, fish eggs, but predominantly on molluscs (e.g. zebra and quagga mussel) that are known to accumulate persistent contaminants from the sediment. As many native game and commercial fish species prey on N. melanostomus the greater bioaccumulation of toxins such as PCBs in the food chain is possible and the fish diet of humans is a health concern.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Perciformes
  •                         Suborder: Gobioidei
  •                             Family: Gobiidae
  •                                 Genus: Neogobius
  •                                     Species: Neogobius melanostomus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The subfamily Goibionellinae (Nelson, 1994), was previously labelled Benthophilinae. Based on results of electrophoretic studies, Dobrovolov et al. (1995) suggested a rearrangement of Gobiidae that moved Neogobius melanostomus to Apollonia melanostomus. The specific epithet melanostomus means ‘black-mouthed’ from the Greek melanos, black, and soma, mouth, but might be thought to refer to the conspicuous black spot typically present on the first dorsal fin (Pinchuk et al., 2003).


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N. melanostomus is small, up to 25 cm in total length. Its pelvic fins form a very characteristic suction disc on the ventral surface. The pelvic disc is 0.6-0.8 times the abdomen length. The body is scaled on the parietal region, nape, back, throat, abdomen, pectoral fin peduncles, and one quarter of the gill covers. The head is wide (as or wider than deep) and relatively big (22-23% of body length). Eyes are large and protrude slightly from the top of the head. The angle of the jaw is below the anterior quarter of the eye. The lower jaw is not prominent. The anterior dorsal fin has 5-7 spines, usually 6, and the posterior dorsal fin has one spine and 13-16 soft rays. The anal fin has one spine and 11-14 soft rays. The pectoral fins have 17-20 soft rays. N. melanostomus lacks a gas bladder and chemoreceptors. Neuromasts are present throughout the body and head. N. melanostomus lacks a visible lateral line. Males are larger than females. Both sexes have an erectile urogenital papilla between the anus and the base of the anal fin. Coloration: yellowish-grey, with lateral blotches; first dorsal fin with large black spot in posterior part; breeding males are almost black and their median fins are more elongated and white-edged (Pinchuk et al., 2003).


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N. melanostomus is widely distributed throughout the Ponto-Caspian basins, in freshwater, estuarine and coastal habitats. It is found in the Sea of Azov, the Caspian Sea, Black Sea and Sea of Marmara near Istanbul, Turkey. It also inhabits tributaries of Black and Caspian seas, including the Dniester River as far as the Smotrich River (near the city Kamenets-Podolsky, Ukraine); in the Prut River in the city Chernovtsy (Ukraine), the Southern Bug River in the city Lodizhino (Ukraine); in the Dnieper River in the city Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine); the Don River in the city Rostov (Russia); in the Volga River to the Volgograd Reservoir (lower reach of the river) but since 1968, it established also in the Kuybyshev Reservoir (middle stretch of the river) (Russia); the Ural River to the Sakma River (Pinchuk et al., 2003). The recent upstream expansion of the species has been observed in the Dniestr, Dniepr, Southern Bug, Volga rivers and its tributaries (Smirnov, 1986; Moskalova, 1996). In the Danube River it was found earlier as far as the town of Vidin (Bulgaria), but has recently spread upstream from the Iron Gate (Simonovic et al., 1998) and even farther reaching Vienna (Austria) (Wiesner et al., 2000).

Outside the Ponto-Caspian basins N. melanostomus invaded several locations in southern coast of the Baltic Sea, and has been reported from Poland (Skóra and Stolarski, 1993), Germany (Corkum et al., 2004), Estonia, Finland, Lithuania (Ojaveer, 2006). Since 2004 it is present in the North Sea basin (Norway) (Van Beek, 2006).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AzerbaijanLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003in rivers and lakes south of the country
Georgia (Republic of)LocalisedNative Not invasive Pinchuk et al., 2003In the Black Sea
IranLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003
KazakhstanAbsent, formerly present1960Introduced Not invasive Pinchuk et al., 2003Introduced to Aral Sea now reported as extinct
TurkeyLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003in the Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara and some lakes
TurkmenistanLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003In Caspian Sea
UzbekistanAbsent, formerly present1960IntroducedPinchuk et al., 2003introduced to Aral Sea, now reported as extinct

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-OntarioLocalised1990Introduced Invasive Jude et al., 1992St. Clair River, Detroit River
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-IllinoisLocalised1993Introduced Invasive Jude, 1997Calumet River, Lake Michigan
-IndianaPresent1996Introduced Invasive Jude, 1997Lake Michigan
-MichiganLocalised1990Introduced Invasive Jude, 1997e.g. St Clair River, Lake Erie, Shiawassee River
-MinnesotaPresent1995Introduced Invasive Jude, 1997Lake Superior
-New YorkPresent1995Introduced Invasive Jude, 1997Lake Ontario
-OhioLocalised1993Introduced Invasive Jude, 1997Lake Erie
-PennsylvaniaPresent1996Introduced Invasive Jude, 1997Lake Erie


AustriaLocalised2000Introduced Invasive Wiesner et al., 2000in the Danube River
BelarusLocalised1998Introduced Invasive Gulugin and Kunitsky, 1999in the Dnieper River and Pripyat River
BulgariaWidespreadNativePinchuk et al., 2003
EstoniaLocalised2002Introduced Invasive Ojaveer, 2006NE part of the Gulf of Riga (Baltic Sea)
FinlandPresent, few occurrences200?Introduced Invasive Ojaveer, 2006coastal waters of the Baltic Sea
GermanyPresent, few occurrences1999IntroducedCorkum et al., 2004near Rugia Island and northern coast
HungaryLocalised2001Introduced Invasive Guti et al., 2003in the Danube River
LithuaniaPresent, few occurrences200?Introduced Invasive Ojaveer, 2006coastal waters of the Baltic Sea
NetherlandsPresent, few occurrences2004Introduced Invasive Beek GCWvan, 2006The Lek River
PolandLocalised1990Introduced Invasive Skóra and Stolarski, 1993coastal waters of the Baltic Sea; lower section of the Vistula River
RomaniaPresentNativePinchuk et al., 2003Black Sea coast and lagoons; the Danube River basin
Russian FederationNative Invasive Pinchuk et al., 2003expand its previous natural distribution e.g. in the Volga River basin
-Central RussiaLocalised1985Introduced Invasive Pinchuk et al., 2003the Moskva River; the Volgograd Reservoir
-Southern RussiaWidespreadNative Invasive Pinchuk et al., 2003native to the Caspian and Black seas; lower section of Volga and Don rivers
SerbiaLocalised1997Introduced Invasive Simonovic et al., 1998; Simonovic et al., 1998the Danube River basin
SlovakiaLocalised2003Introduced Invasive Stránai and ,, 2004the Danube River basin
UkrainePresentNative Invasive Pinchuk et al., 2003Native to the Black Sea, lower section of the Dneiper River and Dniestr River; expand farther upstream up to Kiev.
Yugoslavia (former)LocalisedNative Invasive Simonovic et al., 1998

History of Introduction and Spread

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In the Baltic Sea basin N. melanostomus started its invasion probably from the late 1980s, when in 1990 few individuals 3-4 years old have been found for the first time in the Gulf of Gdansk (the Baltic Sea, Poland) (Skóra and Stolarski, 1993).The species soon spread along the Polish coast (Sapota, 2004) but also entered the Vistula River as far as 130km upstream from the mouth (Kostrzewa and Grabowski, 2002). It has been recently reported from several other places in the southern coastal waters of the Baltic Sea (Ojaveer, 2006) and in the North Sea basin (Van Beek, 2006). The most probable route of N. melanostomus migration to the southern part of Baltic Sea is the so-called northern corridor (Bij de Vaate et al., 2002) consisting the Volga River, Rybinsky Reservoir, lakes Ladoga and Onega connected by artificial canals with the Gulf of Finland (Sapota, 2004). Its introduction to the Baltic Sea is usually related to ballast-water transport (Sapota, 2004) and possibly as eggs attached to the hulls of barges. N. melanostomus invasion to the Baltic Sea was preceeded by its previous expansion in the Volga River system e.g. in the late 1980s it was found in the Moscow River basin (tributary of the upper stretch of the Volga) (Pinchuk et al., 2003).

Its presence in North America was first recorded in 1990 in the St Clair River at Sarnia (Ontario) (Jude et al., 1992). Since 1993, N. melanostomus has been noted in western Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (Charlebois et al., 1997). It is thought that the species was transported to the Great Lakes in North America initially in ballast water of transatlantic ships, which could have come from the Black Sea basin or from the Baltic, and further distributed within the lakes system by similar means (Jude, 1997).
The precise source of the both introductions outside the Ponto-Caspian basin have not been identified yet. Based on results of mitochondrial DNA studies neither the Great Lakes or the Baltic populations originated from the northern Black Sea (Dougherty et al., 996; Dillion andStepien, 2001). The level of genetic variation indicates that founding populations were relatively large.
The expansion along the Danube River farther upstream from the Iron Gate (suggested border of its natural range in the Danube) is also observed (Simonovic et al., 1998; Wiesner et al., 2000; Guti et al., 2003; Stránai and Andreji, 2004). It is supposed that the expansion of N. melanostomus in the Danube may be the result of natural migration encouraged by water transport and human-mediated alteration of river banks e.g. rip-rap habitats and other harbour artificial substrates seem to be preferred by N. melanostomus for shelter (Ahnelt et al., 1998; Wiesner, 2005). This also explains the jump-like dispersal observed in the Danube system.


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Austria 2000 Yes No Wiesner et al. (2000)
Belarus Ukraine 1998 Yes No Gulugin and Kunitsky (1999)
Canada Eastern Europe 1990 Interbasin transfers (pathway cause) Yes No Jude et al. (1992)
Estonia 2002 Yes No Ojaveer (2006)
Finland 2000s? No No
Germany 1999 Yes No Corkum et al. (2004)
Hungary 2001 Yes No Guti et al. (2003)
Lithuania 2000s? No No Ojaveer (2006)
Norway 2004 No No Beek GCWvan (2006)
Poland Russian Federation 1990 Interbasin transfers (pathway cause) ,
Interconnected waterways (pathway cause)
Yes No Sapota (2004); Skóra and Stolarski (1993)
Slovakia 2003 Yes No
USA Eastern Europe 1990 Interbasin transfers (pathway cause) Yes No Jude et al. (1992)

Risk of Introduction

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The further expansion of N. melanostomus to Western Europe may be expected from the Danube River through system of canals that connect it with the main river (the right tributary of the Rhine River, the North Sea basin). The other route to the west and north of Europe is possiblly along the Baltic and North Sea coasts. N.melanostomus spread may be due to natural migration combined with passive dispersal by ships and barges.

In North America N. melanostomus has already spread into an inland river in Ontario (Running Creek) and down the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal en route to the Mississippi River (Charlebois et al., 2001).


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N. melanostomus is a benthic euryhaline species, inhabiting freshwaters of rivers and lakes to brackish polyhaline salinities. In the Black Sea it is found in coastal shallows on stony or sandy bottom and mussel beds at depths of 1.5-20m, being particularly abundant in shallow bays and estuaries coinciding with the distribution of Dreissena sp. (Pinchuk et al., 2003). In the Gulf of Gdansk it inhabits also softer well vegetated substrates, but artificial reefs (wave breakers), piers, rocky and stony areas are the most favourable (Sapota and Skóra, 2005). In the Danube River, N. melanostomus occurred in the highest numbers on gravel-rocky and stony substrates (Jurajda et al., 2005) and in industrial harbours (Wiesner, 2005). In the Great Lakes systemN. melanostomus is typically confined to lakes and connected channels or navigational waterways (Corkum et al., 2004), mostly found on pebbles with aquatic macrophytes from shallows to 7m depth, but also on sandy bottoms (Charlebois et al., 1997).

Habitat List

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Coastal areas Principal habitat Natural
Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Reservoirs Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Estuaries Principal habitat Natural
Lagoons Principal habitat Natural
Inshore marine Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Inshore marine Principal habitat Natural
Benthic zone Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Benthic zone Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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N. melanostomus possesses 46 acrocentric chromosomes (Pinchuk et al., 2003). The species has a relatively low level of genetic variability (Charlebois et al., 1997; Pinchuk et al., 2003). The genetics of this species have been extensively studied, see Brown and Stepien (2008) for further details.

Reproductive Biology

In the Ponto-Caspian region (in the native population of N. melanostomus) males become mature during the third year of life and females are mature at the age of two. Fecundity ranges from 200 to 5221 eggs depending on female size. The pale yellow to orange pyriform eggs are about 3.9 by 2.8 mm. They are described as oligoplastic and polylecithal, rich in protein and lipid. The breeding season is prolonged and can last from April to September. Females can spawn up to six times during breeding period. Eggs are deposited in a net on the underside of different structures e.g. rocks, logs, roots, in beer cans, empty shells of molluscs etc, and the nest is defended by the male. Several females may deposit eggs in the same site. Sound production features in the courtship and territorial behaviour is reported for both sexes. Size under hatching is 5.5-5.7 mm. Larvae resemble adults at hatching and appear to be benthic, since they have no swim bladder (Pinchuk et al., 2003).

N. melanostomus from new colonized areas (Baltic Sea, Great Lakes) tend to be smaller, mature earlier at a smaller size compared with the populations in native range. Dwarf morphs are observedwhich direct more energy to reproduction than the normal morphs in native populations (Corkum at al., 2004). 

Physiology and Phenology

N. melanostomus is eurythermal and euryhaline species. It can withstand very low level of dissolved oxygen. Overall, the species has wide tolerance of several environmental abiotic factors that enhance its invasiveness. The primary diet of N. melanostomus includes molluscs, crustaceans, worms, fish eggs, small fish, and insect larvae (Pinchuk et al., 2003). 


It is often reported as associated with Dreissena sp. both in native and invaded areas. In rocky substrate habitats, greater than 100 mm N. melanostomus feeds almost exclusively on zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). In addition, since the invasion of quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis), which tolerates deeper and cooler waters, another source of mussels may be available for N. melanostomus in deeper, soft regimented areas of the Great Lakes, where zebra mussels were prevented from colonizing because of lack of hard substrate (Jude, 1997).


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Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) Optimum 0.3-0.9 tolerated. The threshold value depending on the mass of fish. Tolerate low oxygenation
Salinity (part per thousand) Optimum 1-40.6 tolerated. A euryhaline species
Velocity (cm/h) Optimum Prefers rather stagnant waters or those of a slow flow
Water temperature (ºC temperature) Optimum -1-30 tolerated. A eurythermal species

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Ambloplites rupestris Predator Adult not specific Jude, 1997
Anguillicoloides crassus Parasite not specific Rolbiecki l, 2006
Cryptocotyle concavum Parasite not specific Kvach and Skóra, 2007
Diplostomum spathaceum Parasite not specific Kvach and Skóra, 2007
Hysterothylacium aduncum Parasite not specific Rolbiecki l, 2006
Lota lota Predator Adult not specific Jude, 1997
Micropterus dolomieu Predator Adult not specific Jude, 1997
Morone chrysops Predator Adult not specific Corkum et al., 2004
Neochasmus umbellus Parasite Larval not specific Kvach and Stepien, 2008
Noturus flavus Predator Adult not specific Jude, 1997
Perca flavescens Predator Adult not specific Jude, 1997
Phalacrocorax carbo Predator Adult not specific Bzoma and Stempniewicz, 2001
Sander vitreus Predator Adult not specific Corkum et al., 2004

Notes on Natural Enemies

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In the Great Lakes of North America N. melanostomus is a common prey of small bass (Micropterus dolomieu), rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris,) stonecat (Noturus flavus), burbot (Lota lota) and yellow perch (Perca flavescens), but is a minor component in the diet of walleye (Stizostedion vitreum ) and white bass (Morone chrysops) (Jude,1997; Corkum et al., 2004).

Although fish predators on N. melanostomus in the Gulf of Gdansk (Baltic Sea) are unknown, great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) feed predominantly (72%) on N. melanostomus (Bzoma and Stempniewicz, 2001).

Parasites of N. melanostomus in invaded areas i.e. Gulf of Gdansk (the Baltic Sea, Poland) consist of 12 species. The core of the parasite fauna comprises two species: Cryptocotyle concavum and Diplostomum spathaceum; secondary species are absent; satellite species include Cercariae and Ergasilus sieboldi; rare species are Acanthocephalus lucii, Anguillicola crassus, Bothriocephalus sp., Dichelyne minutus, Hysterothylacium aduncum, Pomphorhynchus laevis, Piscicola geometra, and Tylodelphys clavata. Fifty percent of metazoa parasites that occurred in the invasive N. melanostomus in the Gulf of Gdansk are also typically found in the native Gulf of Gdansk gobiids. N. melanostomus hosts common fish parasite species: C. concavum and D. minutus, but none that are unique to the species and no Ponto-Caspian parasites (Kvach and Skóra, 2007). In the Vistula Lagoon (Poland) parasitological examination revealed the presence of 20 parasitic taxa. The most frequent were nematodes Hysterothylacium aduncum and Anguillicola crassus (Rolbiecki, 2006). In North America, 76% of round gobies were infected with one or more parasites, mostly freshwater. Diplostomum spathacum a species typical of freshwater in the Ponto-Caspian basin but common also in the Baltic Sea was the most common parasite occurring in 65% of N. melanostomus sampled from St Clair River region (Pronin et al., 1997). Recently, N. melanostomus from Lake Erie (Ohio, USA) was found to be a newly described intermediate host for trematode Neochasmus umbellus, the parasite commonly found in piscivorous fishes in the Great Lakes (Kvach and Stepien, 2008) In newly invaded area of the Danube River parasitic load was low and all parasite species found were common. In the Middle Danube basin no parasites parasites specific to Neogobius sp., known from their native population, were observed (Ondrackova et al., 2005).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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The dispersal of N. melanostomus in Europe may be thought as a combination of natural migration (continuation of postglacial colonization) encouraged by water transport e.g. ships and barges. The human-mediated alteration of river banks e.g. rip-rap habitats and the harbour’s other artificial substrates providing shelter, spawning areas as well as feeding grounds due to presence of zebra mussel beds seem to facilitate N. melanostomus establishment (Ahnelt et al.,1998; Wiesner, 2005). In the case of N. melanostomus invasion of the Baltic Sea ballast-water transport (Sapota, 2004) and possibly as eggs attached to the hulls of barges are the most probable vectors of transmission (Skóra and Stolarski, 1993). The existence of inter-basin connections through artificial canals that join the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea basins enabled N. melanostomus spread. Moreover, as the Danube River system (the Black Sea basin) is connected with rivers of the North Sea basin N. Melanostomus’s further expansion to the rest of Western Europe seems inevitable.

It is thought that the species was transported to the Great Lakes in North America initially in ballast water of ships, which could have come from the Black Sea basin or from the Baltic, and further distributed within the lakes system by similar means (Jude, 1997). Since its first record in 1990, N. melanostomus completed its dispersal throughout the five Great Lakes in 5 years (Jude, 1997).

Pathway Causes

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Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Ship ballast water and sedimentIn all stages of life Yes Yes Corkum et al., 2004; Jude, 1997
Ship hull foulingPossibly as eggs Yes Yes Corkum et al., 2004; Jude, 1997; Jude et al., 1992

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Negative

Economic Impact

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In the Baltic Sea N. melanostomus is caught incidentally in eel traps (up to 50 kg/day/boat) but because there is no legalized trade of that species they have no commercial value for fishermen (Skóra, 1996; Charlebois et al., 1997). However, the species is becoming a popular sport fish on the Baltic coast. On the other hand N. melanostomus may negatively interfer with anglers activity as they remove bait from hooks and are caught instead of sport fish. Moreover N. melanostomus is a predator of eggs and juveniles of native game fish species. e.g. in the Great Lakes, reducing the hatching success of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) (Corkum et al., 2004). 

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

The invasion of N. melanostomus has resulted in the diet shifts among predators and changes in food web structure e.g. in the Gulf of Gdansk (Baltic Sea, Poland), cormorants have shifted their diet from eel (Anguilla anguilla) and sprat (Spratus spratus) to N. melanostomus, resulting in increases in eel and sprat (Bzoma and Stempniewicz, 2001). Increase in planktivorous sprat have lead to a reduction of zooplankton and as a consequence increases in algal biomass have been noted.

As a molluscivore, N. melanostomus has been thought to be of potential use in the Great Lakes basin as a consumer of the introduced zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), which became a serious problem for natural ecosystems and human activities. The zebra mussel is the main dietary component of larger N. melanostomus, while it is not or is rarely consumed by native fish species. The possible reduction of zebra mussel population due to predation is only partly advantageous for ecosystems because the entry of zebra mussel biomass into the food chain of N. melanostomus and their larger fish predators might transfer harmful pollutants into the higher trophic levels (Charlebois et al., 1997).

Kuhns and Berg (1999) reported that predation on invertebrates other than molluscs by N. melanostomus has led to increased algal biomass as measured by chlorophyll content. 

Impact on Biodiversity

N. melanostomus negatively affects the recruitment of native fishes in the Great Lakes e.g. it feeds on eggs of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and lake sturgeon (Acipenser fluvescens) probably reducing their hatching success (Corkum et al., 2004). In the St. Clair River the decline of mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi) coincided with presence of N. melanostomus (Janssen and Jude, 2001). Janssen and Jude (2001) indicated that recruitment failure of mottled sculpins resulted from spawning interference by N. melanostomus. The mechanism of this impact appears to be the aggressive nature of N. melanostomus which drives mottled sculpin from prime feeding, shelter, and especially spawning areas (Janssen and Jude, 2001). Another local species that may be at risk is the deepwater sculpin (Myoxocephalus thompsoni), whose habitats may be penetrated in winter by N. melanostomus (Jude, 1997).

In the southern coasts of the Baltic Sea N. melanostomus may compete for food with flounder (Platichthys flesus) and for space with other native Gobiidae (especially Pomatoschistus microps, Pomatoschistus minutus, Gobius niger) and the eelpout (Zoarces viviparous) (Corkum et al., 2004).

Researchers have suggested a possible link between N. melanostomus. and botulism, Clostridium botulinum type E, a disease of wild migratory birds (Corkum et al., 2004).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Villosa fabalis (rayed bean)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesUSAPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012

Social Impact

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Because N. melanostomus feed on benthic organisms, mainly molluscs, that are exposed to contaminated sediments and are preyed upon by various sport and commercial fishes, the fish diet of humans is a health concern (Corkum et al., 2004).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Conflict
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition
  • Interaction with other invasive species
  • Parasitism (incl. parasitoid)
  • Predation
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Economic Value

N. melanostomus used to be an important component of the commercial catch in the Black Sea and Azov Sea areas. The massive decline in N. melanostomus stocks between the 1960s and 1989 resulted in decline in a commercial fishery (Pinchuk et al., 20003). In newly invaded areas there is no commercial value for N. melanostomus.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Bait/attractant

Human food and beverage

  • Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)

Prevention and Control

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Several actions are undertaken to eradicate or at least control and prevent spread of N. melanostomus in the Great Lakes basin. They include: physical activities like using traps, dams and electrical barriers to deter movement (Savino et al., 2001); applying chemicals that are toxic to fish (Dawson et al.,1998); prohibiting transport of N. melanostomus for use as live bait to limit spread; increasing public awareness through publishing educational materials e.g. Sea Grant Program network, Ministry of Natural Resources (Ontario) and other agencies. In 2005, en experimental N. melanostomus eradication project was undertaken in the Pefferlaw Brook, a tributary of Lake Simcoe to eradicate N. melanostomus before it entered Lake Simcoe. Treatment with rotenone was deemed to be the most suitable approach to remove N. melanostomus from the Pefferlaw Brook. The experiment gave positive results as all N. melanostomus were killed (



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Charlebois PM, Corkum LD, Jude DJ, Knight C, 2001. The round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) invasion: current research and future needs. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 27(3):263-266.

Charlebois PM, Marsden JE, Goettel RG, Wolf RK, Jude DJ, Rudnika S, 1997. The round goby Neogobius melanostomus (Pallas, 1811), a review of European and North American Literature. Illinois Natural History Survey Special Publication., 1-76.

Corkum LD, Sapota MR, Skora KE, 2004. The round goby, Neogobius melanostomus, a fish invader on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Biological Invasions, 6(2):173-181.

Dawson VK, Boogaard MA, Bills TD, 1998. Evaluation of piscicides for controlling range expansion of round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) and ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus). United States Geological Survey, Biological Resource Division.

Dillon AK, Stepien CA, 2001. Genetic and biogeographical relationships of the invasive round (Neogobius melanostomus) and tubnose (Proterorhinus marmoratus) gobies in the Great Lakes versus European populations. Journal of the Great Lakes Research, 27:267-280.

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Kuhns LA, Berg MB, 1999. Benthic invertebrate community responses to round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) and zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) iinvasion in southern Lake Michigan. Journal Great Lakes Research, 25:910-971.

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Links to Websites

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CRS Report for Congress: Harmful Non-Native Species
Culprit-Great Lakes Goby
Fish of Great Lakes by the Wisconsin Sea Grant
The North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Specieshttp://


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28/04/08 Original text by:

Joanna Grabowska, University of Lodz, Dept Invertebrate Zoology & Hydrobiology, Banacha 12/16, 90-237 Lodz, Poland

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