Ponto-Caspian gobies in Switzerland

Ponto-Caspian gobies are currently spreading along European waterways, presumably along shipping routes. In 2012 the round goby was detected in Basel. The bighead goby reached Switzerland shortly before. Both bottom-dwelling fish species display impressive colonisation capabilities and rapid population growth.

We are interested in:

  • The biology of Ponto-Caspian gobies in local waters (habitat, food web, reproductive behaviour)
  • Population genetics and mechanism of spread
  • Ecological and economic consequences of the invasion
  • Management options in Switzerland

The goby team combines knowledge from different natural sciences backgrounds with skills from economics and the social sciences. Present team members are:

We are always looking for new team members.

Final report ponto-caspian gobies project 2012-2016

NOn-native ponto-caspian gobies in Switzerland - measures for containment and harm reduction
Final report 2012-2016 (german)

Project supported by BAFU, Cantons Basel City, Basel Country, Aargau, Solothurn, Zürich and FoNEW.

Current research topics

Goby barrier

We investigate whether a selective goby barrier is a means of preventing the further active spread of invasive gobies. We conduct basic research primarily focusing on the swimming ability of bottom-dwelling fish species. Thereby, we aim to find out whether native bottom-living species and invasive gobies differ in their swimming ability. This research could be the data basis for constructing and installing a selective barrier that prevents or impedes the active up-stream spread of invasive gobies.

Aquarium hobbyists

Our aim is to find out whether aquarium hobbyists are a relevant vector for the spread of gobies in the Rhine river basin, especially in Switzerland. We want to answer the following questions: Are gobies kept in aquariums or garden ponds and traded or passed on? Are gobies released or is there reason to believe that they will be released? Are gobies exchanged between anglers and aquarists and is an additional 'loop' created, e.g. for intermediate caging of bait fish or utilizing live-caught gobies? In addition to answering research questions, this subproject aims to provide scientific background information to develop recommendations for action.

Passive spread by translocation via recreational boats

There are strong indications that gobies can get passively translocated by clutches of eggs attached to recreational boats. We investigate this possibility by inspecting boats in various harbours along the Rhine river and during boat cleanings, as well as by behavioural observations of gobies in marinas. Furthermore, we determine the resistance of goby eggs towards flow, desiccation and treatment with cleaning detergents. This research will enable us giving boat owners recommendations of how to treat their vessels in order to minimize the risk of translocation of invasive gobies.

Monitoring in the port of Basel-Kleinhüningen

Since 2012, we regularly monitor the population of gobies intensely by using minnow traps in the port of Basel-Kleinhüningen. Since the arrival of the gobies in the Rhine river at Basel, the monitoring continues with less expenditure (once a year), but still systematically and organized to follow the development of the local population of gobies.

Gut content analysis

We develop DNA-based assays to detect eggs and larvae in the guts of gobies. Gobies have spread from the Rhine river into spawning areas of native fish. It is unclear whether they feed on spawn or fry because these are quickly digested beyond recognition. We will use the assay in 2018 to investigate whether gobies feed on, and thus may impact reproductive success of the common nase and the common barbel.

Scientific publications


Round gobies in the third dimension – use of vertical walls as habitat enables vector contact in a bottom-dwelling invasive fish (in press)

Bussmann, K., & Burkhardt-Holm, P.
to the article

Flow field-induced drag forces and swimming behavior of three benthic fish species

Wiegleb, J., Hirsch, P. E., Egger, B., Seidel, F., & Burkhardt-Holm, P. - Limnologica

Predation on native fish eggs by invasive round goby revealed by species-specific gut content DNA analyses.

Lutz, E., Hirsch, P.E., Bussmann, K., Wiegleb, J., Jermann, H-P., Muller, R., Burkhardt-Holm, P., Adrian-Kalchhauser, I. - Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
(If you are interested in the complete paper, please send us an inquiry)

The round goby genome provides insights into mechanisms that may facilitate biological invasions

Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Blomberg A., Larsson T., Musilova Z., Peart C. R., Pippel M., Hongroe Solbakken M., Suurväli J., Walser J.-C., Wilson J. Y., Rosenblad M. A., Burguera D., Gutnik S., Michiels N., Töpel M., Pankov K., Schloissnig S. & Winkler S. - BMC Biology


DNA Methylation Patterns in the Round Goby Hypothalamus Support an On-The-Spot Decision Scenario for Territorial Behavior.

Somerville V., Schwaiger M., Hirsch P. E., Walser J. C., Bussmann K., Weyrich A., Burkhardt-Holm P., Adrian-Kalchhauser I. - Genes
doi: 10.3390/genes10030219

Long-read sequencing of benthophilinae mitochondrial genomes reveals the origins of round goby mitogenome re-arrangements.

Gutnik S., Walser J. C., Adrian-Kalchhauser, I. - Mitochondrial DNA Part B
doi: 10.1080/23802359.2018.1547133


Predation of the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus Pallas, 1814) on Atlantic herring eggs in the Western Baltic Sea.

Wiegleb J., Kotterba P., Hammer C., Oesterwind D. - Marine Biology Research
doi: 10.1080/17451000.2019.1577977

RNA sequencing of early round goby embryos reveals that maternal experiences can shape the maternal RNA contribution in a wild vertebrate.

Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Walser J., Schwaiger M., Burkhardt-Holm P. - BMC Evolutionary Biology
doi: 10.1186/s12862-018-1132-2

Colonizing Islands of water on dry land—on the passive dispersal of fish eggs by birds

Hirsch P.E., N'guyen A., Muller R., Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Burkhardt-Holm P. - FISH and FISHERIES


A dynamical model for invasive round goby populations reveals efficient and effective management options

N'guyen A., Hirsch P.E., Bozzuto C., Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Hôrková K., Burkhardt-Holm P. - Journal of Applied Ecolog
doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12934

The round and sand goby mitochondrial genomes reveal patterns of recent evolution and ancient adaptations in gobiid fish

Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Svensson O., Kutschera V.E., Alm Rosenblad M., Pippel M., Winkler S., Schloissnig S., Blomberg A., Burkhardt-Holm P. - BMC Genomics
doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-3550-8

An approach to incorporate individual personality in modeling fish dispersal across in‐stream barriers

Hirsch P.E., Thorlacius M., Brodin T., Patricia Burkhardt‐Holm P. - Ecology and Evolution
doi: 10.1002/ece3.2629


The invasive bighead goby Ponticola kessleri shows large-scale genetic similarities and small-scale genetic differentiation in relation to shipping patterns

Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Hirsch P.E., N'Guyen A., Watzlawczyk S., Gertzen S., Borcherding J., Burkhardt-Holm P. - Molecular Ecology
doi: 10.1111/mec.13595

A tough egg to crack: recreational boats as vectors for invasive goby eggs and transdisciplinary management approaches

Hirsch P.E., Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Flämig S., N’Guyen A., Defila R., Di Giulio A., Burkhardt-Holm P. - Ecology and Evolution
doi: 10.1002/ece3.1892

An eDNA Assay to monitor a globally invasive fish species from flowing freshwater

Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Burkhardt-Holm P. - PLOS One
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147558


What do we really know about the impacts of one of the 100 worst invaders in Europe? A reality check

Hirsch P.E.*, N’Guyen A.*, Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Burkhardt-Holm P. - Ambio
doi: 10.1007/s13280-015-0718-9

Improving invasive species management by integrating priorities and contributions of scientists and decision makers

N’Guyen A.*, Hirsch P.E.*, Adrian-Kalchhauser I., Burkhardt-Holm P. - Ambio
doi: 10.1007/s13280-015-0723-z


The complete mitochondrial genome of the invasive Ponto-Caspian goby Ponticola kessleri obtained from high-throughput sequencing using the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine

Kalchhauser I., Kutschera V., Burkhardt-Holm P. - Mitochondrial DNA
doi: 10.3109/19401736.2014.971272


Arrival of round goby Neogobius melanostomus (Pallas, 1814) and bighead goby Ponticola kessleri (Günther, 1861) in the High Rhine (Switzerland)

Kalchhauser I., Mutzner P., Hirsch P.E., Burkhardt-Holm P. - Biological Invasion Records
doi: 10.3391/bir.2013.2.1.14

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Message to the goby team