To quote Sara Criddle from Facebook, “It’s still there!” I refer to the Western Crested Morwong, Goniistius gibbosus (aka WA Magpie Morwong), that has been sighted at Port Noarlunga jetty and reef this year.
As I reported in Observations made during our recent dive at Port Noarlunga Reef, “Western Crested Morwong were previously not recorded in SA waters. As the name suggests, they were only seen in southern WA. Their sudden occurrence in SA is a huge range extension for the species.”
Lauren Cameo’s video footage taken at Port Noarlunga earlier this year features a Western Crested Morwong at just after the 1-minute mark.
This photo is a still taken from Lauren’s video footage: –
Reports of sightings of the fish deserve an article of their own, one focused solely on those sightings. Several divers have reported seeing the Western Crested Morwong at Port Noarlunga in the past three months. David Muirhead was able to get some stills and video footage of one during our most recent dive there on 14th April. He has posted some of his photos to iNaturalist.
David’s sighting and subsequent photos are what spurred me to revisit this subject. Here are some of David’s comments: –
“Poor visibility hampered imaging but, more importantly, this fish was fast and flighty, surprisingly so given its relatively low-risk location i.e. outgoing weak (‘dodge’) tide, and the relaxed generally approachable behaviour of many of the more common reef fishes at this site.
“It zoomed about in depths from ~4m to ~7.5m, stopping quite often, but only briefly (perhaps seeking a clean from the many western cleaner clingfish and other host cleaner fish observed there).”
“First record for Gulf of St Vincent and previously largely confined to SW Western Australia. Clearly yet another case of range extension due climate change …..”
This photo taken by David Muirhead shows the Western Crested Morwong (aka WA Magpie Morwong) seemingly thinking that it is actually an SA Magpie Morwong (aka Magpie Perch): –
David has also reported a few other recent surprise sightings: –
“Just within the last few years all sorts of local surprise ‘arrivals’ have been hitting the marine biodata sites like iNaturalist/ALA.
#1: Red Snapper under Rapid Bay jetty (I’ve NEVER seen one in Yankalilla Bay, and the species is in overall decline in SA due overfishing, etc.. but maybe its other name, Bight Redfish, is a clue. The greatest densities before commercial and recreational targeting were in the relatively warm temperate Great Australian Bight, hmm… (but the Rapid Head Green Sanctuary Zone is a possible confounding factor).
#2: the Magpie Morwong as above.
#3: Lots more juvenile Southern Blue Devils than usual in living memory in places like Second Valley and Rapid Bay.
#4: Big Luderick are now often seen in Gulf of St Vincent e.g. Rapid Bay jetty, and for decades they were generally considered vagrants from the east, but they are now breeding here almost certainly.
#5: Ditto Silver Sweep (similar to our very common Sea Sweep but I never saw any till 2 years ago and since then I have seen quite a few).
#6: Gladius Chub. Very similar to our common Silver Drummer, but until recently confined to SW WA. Lots of probable sightings in Spencer Gulf and Gulf of St Vincent recently, but not yet confirmed by voucher specimen (spearing is the usual method for this mainly herbivorous, quite big and fast fish group).
(All photos other than the still taken from Lauren Cameo’s video footage were taken by David Muirhead, including the header photo. My thanks go to David Muirhead, Lauren Cameo and everyone else concerned for their assistance.)