Silver DorySilver Dory

Whilst diving with Paul and Leona Fitzgerald on the Noarlunga Tyre Reef on 30/1/97 I chanced upon a very distinctively shaped fish lurking close to a tyre pyramid.

Though I cannot recall ever sighting one during my years of diving in SA waters, I was quite sure this was a Dory. I hoped that it would oblige me by either being approachable or, at least,seeking refuge within a pyramid (as other species on tyre reefs often do, notably Bullseyes, Black-spotted Wrasses, Long-snouted Boarfish and many Leatherjacket species).

I got that sinking feeling well known to underwater photographers, however, when the dastardly Dory did disappear decidedly quickly and with deceptive ease into the blue-green haze. By the way, a purple haze hasn’t been seen near Adelaide for decades due to stormwater discharge but all we aging hippies long for the day!

(A question for readers: Just how far off is the time when I can activate a forcefield to facilitate my approach to a subject in my humble pursuit of celluloid excellence?)

Suffice to say, I did not get a single exposure despite my breath-holding, heart-thumping and stealth bomber-like approach to this fickle fish which appeared to glide soundlessly out of my sight as if it were a target on an overhead wire at a shooting range and I had used up all my ammo. Or put another way, the fish rose above the artificial reef and swam at increasing speed and with unmistakeable purpose away from it’s admirer and publicist, towards deep water.

Only a few weeks later, Paul Fitzgerald, who had not seen my fish, got a couple of hasty exposures of a Dory (the same one?) on this same reef. We have identified the fish as a Silver Dory and one of Paul’s exposures is to be included in the MLSSA Photo Index of fish species.

Gommon, Glover and Kuiter in “The Fishes of Australia’s South Coast” state that the Silver Dory occurs “near the bottom in depths of 30-350m” in Southern Australia, whilst Hutchins and Swainston in “Sea Fishes of Southern Australia” describe it as “common in deep offshore waters of Australia’s South Coast, occasionally found in schools over shallow reefs in Tasmania”.

As the Noarlunga Tyre Reef is approximately 17m in depth, these sightings are of some interest in indicating either the attractiveness of artificial reefs to usually deeper water species, (and I must say by way of example that Brown-spotted Boarfish seem to love artificial reefs), or a similarity between the species’ behaviour in Tasmania and SA, OR least gratifying but very possibly, the mere fact that we know virtually nothing about our local marine fauna!


By David Muirhead

David is a long-serving member of the Marine Life Society of South Australia. He has dived and snorkeled in South Australian waters for around five decades and has a particular interest in bony fishes. David has made the greatest single contribution to the society's Photo Index of local marine species.

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