This paper describes the morphology and ecology of the larvae and early juveniles of two common gobiids in warm temperate South African estuaries. The early developmental stages of Glossogobius callidus and Redigobius dewaali were collected during plankton surveys in seven permanently open and five intermittently open estuaries along southeastern South Africa. Larval G. callidus have a characteristic ventral row of pigment that extends from the cleithral symphysis along the ventral midline of the tail to the end of the caudal peduncle; notochord flexion takes place at the yolk-sac stage, between 3 and 4 mm BL. Larval R. dewaali are characterized by having two very large stellate melanophores on the ventral surface of the trunk and tail, and internal pigment between the snout and hindgut; notochord flexion takes place between 4 and 6 mm. Body lengths at settlement for G. callidus and R. dewaali are 13 mm and 16 mm, respectively. G. callidus and R. dewaali dominate the larval gobiid catch in warm temperate estuaries. Estuary type and freshwater input played a defining role in the occurrence of larvae of these, often sympatric, species in temperate estuaries. Larval G. callidus occurred in both permanently open and intermittently open estuaries, and were most abundant in mesohaline regions over the spring/summer period. By contrast, larval R. dewaali occurred exclusively in permanently open estuaries and were more prevalent in the fresh and oligohaline regions in autumn. Larvae of both species were more prevalent in freshwater-rich estuaries. Densities of G. callidus and R. dewaali peaked at 101 and 3829 larvae per 100 m3 respectively. The usefulness of using the early stages of these gobiids as indicators of estuarine health based on their specific and often prolific estuarine occurrence is discussed.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2