Which species of fish has the shortest lifespan?

The Sign Eviota, Eviota sigillata, a tiny coral reef fish, completes its entire life cycle within an eight week period. This species has the shortest lifespan of any vertebrate.

Sign Eviota caught at Port de Goro

Rick Winterbottom © Rick Winterbottom

The Sign Eviota, Eviota sigillata, a tiny coral reef fish, completes its entire life cycle within an eight week period. This species has the shortest lifespan of any vertebrate.

In their 2005 paper Martial Depczynski and David Bellwood describe the Sign Eviota’s remarkable life cycle. It spends three weeks in the open ocean as a larva. It then settles on a coral reef and and matures within one to two weeks. Time spent as an adult (11 mm to 20 mm in length) is no more than three and a half weeks.

The age of the species was determined by examination of daily growth rings in the otoliths of 319 specimens. The largest fish had a lifespan of 59 days.

The Sign Eviota occurs in tropical inshore and coral reef waters of the Indo-West and Central Pacific.

View a map of the collecting localities of specimens in the Australian Museum Fish Collection.

In Australia it is known from off north-western Western Australia and around the tropical north of the country to northern Queensland.

It has also been called the Coral Reef Pygmy Goby and Seven-figure Pygmy Goby.

Related links

Further reading

  1. Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum. Supplement 44: 67–86.
  2. Depczynski, M. & D. Bellwood. 2005. Shortest recorded vertebrate lifespan found in a coral reef fish. Current Biology 15(8): 288-289.
  3. Jewett, S.L. & E.A. Lachner. 1983. Seven new species of the Indo-Pacific genus Eviota (Pisces: Gobiidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 96(4): 780–806.


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
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Tags Sign Eviota, Gobiidae, shortest, lifespan, Eviota sigillata, fishes, ichthyology,